It’s hard to imagine a Beetle tearing through the Missouri woods, but three years ago a duo did just that in the hundred Acre Woods Rally that takes place in Salem. There are YouTube videos of the 40 year-old beast tearing through an S-curve, its front end facing the camera as the drivers coast past in the mud.
The thrill of rally racing is a spectacle for sure. The practice of putting high-performance vehicles through the mud and the grit leads to some unexpected excitement. For the uninformed, rally racing is all about times. Competitors rarely race one another directly, they compete for times through certain runs. A run is typically a section of off-road competitors must race through to get to another section of road. So races can happen in a day or a few days depending on the length of the competition.
What makes the sport difficult and exciting are the unexpected accidents that occur. A rainy night could slick the roads and turn a normal curve into something uncontrollable. Rocky roads can damage the car’s under carriage, necessitating repairs or a full drop out.
The Polo R
Volkswagen is no stranger to the danger and its Polo R is the poster child for the 2014 Monte-Carlo Rally--literally. One rarely pictures rally racing when thinking of the sleek VW bodies in the consumer market, but the cars have all the makings of an off-road beast. The company’s earliest products were tanks and people movers, vehicles capable of navigating the rough terrain of the European theater. The concept was unveiled last year:
· Performance sport hatch
· Rally inspired spoiler on the front end
· Tons of aesthetic modifications, including a WRC logo on the rear
· 18-inch alloy wheels
· 16-inch disc brakes
· Race-spec entire (roll cage and stabilizer bars)
The car is light weight, using Kevlar to protect the doors and wheels. The frame is also wider to help handle turns, and the engine is turbo-charged for sheer power off the line. The transmission is a six speed, complete with the massive drive-shafts so common to the sport.
VW took the 2013 WRC championship from the reigning Citroen champions. The two Sebastiens battled it out in the events leading up to the championship, with the Citroen driver taking some time off to compete in other events. VW seized the opportunity with a series of all-star finishes that set them up for success at WRC. Even with a scary moment--the VW Polo was blocked by a hydraulic barrier that had been raised in its path--the team took the contest handily.
The car is quick. The body is bulletproof, and it can hit 60 in less than four seconds. Its motor transfers its 300 break horsepower to all four tires, making the car light, maneuverable and responsive. As an additional benefit for the long term motorist or racer, replacing or modifying VW parts is not difficult.
The WRC program is new for Volkswagen, and they are one of the only rookie-car makers (that’s rookie to WRC) to take a title on their first year in the scene. While some of that success is surely owed to the driver, Sebastien Olgier, the car maker is bringing a lot more interest to the rally scene. Its sleek Polo is stylish on the track, powerful and has what it takes to bring home the titles. How about that German engineering, right?