Polo R Rally car made by Volkswagen hatchback seems an unlikely candidate for high-level rally competition against purpose-built race cars. But Volkswagen Motorsport cleverly optimized multiple generations of Polo from 2010 onward into giant-killing rally cars competitive in S1600 and GRC classes.
Punching above its weight through extensive modifications, rally versions of the Polo provide an underdog success story showcasing VW engineers’ creativity and rally expertise applied even to humble models.
Early Potential in Rallycross
Volkswagen’s first intimation of Polo’s rallying potential came in 2015. Despite just 150 hp, the production Polo’s agile front-drive chassis adapted well to mixed surface Rallycross circuits.
This early result spurred VW Motorsport to develop the Polo further for rally stages and Rallycross by making key upgrades where regulations allowed. Significant chassis and drivetrain improvements would extract more speed from the economical hatchback.
Building a Polo Super 1600 Rally Car
Seeking more rally success, VW homologated the Polo for competition in the FIA’s Super 1600 class from 2010 onward. Super 1600 regulations limited mods to production chassis and 1600cc naturally aspirated engines, but allowed suspension, differential, wheel, and body upgrades.
VW added a sequential racing transmission, limited slip differentials, enhanced 1.6L engine internals, and engine mapping tweaks to push the Polo over the 190 hp limit. Custom Bilstein shocks, springs, anti-roll bars, and 17″ alloys honed handling precision. An aluminum cage and racing seat enhanced safety and reduced weight.
Polo R Rally Car Thrilling Results
The transformed Polo S1600 proved a revelation early on. Scoring a 2010 Rally Isle of Man class win on its debut. Quickly, the Polo established itself as the S1600 benchmark, racking up victories from 2010-2013 in Ireland, Hungary, France, Spain, and beyond often against larger 2WD machinery.
Drivers praised the Polo’s nimble chassis and rev-happy power band keeping momentum up between tight turns on both tarmac and gravel. Volkswagen captured back-to-back S1600 driver’s titles in 2012-2013, establishing the Polo as a class leader.
Later GRC Rallycross Efforts
Seeking new challenges, VW introduced the hardcore Polo RX rallycross car 2015 boasting 300+ hp, all-wheel drive, and extreme aero. Purpose-built from the ground up for rallycross, the Polo RX proved a tenacious competitor in the World Rallycross Championship.
Famed driver Petter Solberg piloted his Polo RX to multiple event victories through sheer car control. In 2019, the latest Polo RX EVO model claimed the World RX title driven by Timmy Hansen as a testament to VW’s rallycross dedication.
Why the Polo R Rally Car Succeeded Against the Odds
Several attributes explain the Polo’s efficacy as a rally threat:
Strong yet compact engine internals survived high-RPM rally abuse.
Precise suspension tuning maximized mechanical grip and compliance.
Excellent weight distribution over front drive wheels enhanced traction.
Short wheelbase allowed rapid direction changes on tight roads.
Available parts like LSDs made tuning easy within regulations.
VW maximized the Polo’s basic strengths through clever preparation – a proven recipe for giant-killing.
Polo R Rally Car Lasting Legacy
The Polo’s rally achievements will long represent an against-the-odds success story within Volkswagen Motorsport lore. On both loose surfaces and tarmac, the Polo excelled when fully optimized to overcome power deficits through agility.
For VW’s engineers, the Polo proved front-drive econoboxes could become legitimate rally threats through innovation and maximizing capabilities over budget. This underdog attitude drives VW’s motorsport efforts – starting from humble roots to reach rally greatness.