Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller reaffirmed the company’s commitment to its numerous motorsport programs last weekend at the World Endurance Championship season finale, reports Road & Track. Müller says the Volkswagen Group’s racing programs are simply too important to drop.
Dieselgate may have the company bracing for costly recalls and potentially billions in fines from regulatory agencies across the world, and motorsport is tremendously expensive, and something that many thought would be an obvious piece to abandon. However, the company believes motorsport is too vital to their brand to let go.
Müller told Autosport:
The motorsports programs are not in danger of being dropped or significantly reduced because motorsports is very important for the group and the brands.
Basically, we do not question our motorsport efforts.
I’m obviously coming from the perspective of a person who writes about motorsport for a living, but I think Müller’s on to something. Not only does motorsport give the company a rolling lab for new technology, but motorsport is the one area where the Volkswagen Group is getting any positive press.
Porsche just got took the driver’s and manufacturer’s titles in the World Endurance Championship (after having won the 24 Hours of Le Mans) and debuted the new GT4 Clubsport racer to the oohs, aahs, and please let me drive its of fans everywhere. Volkswagen dominated the World Rally Championship and took the Global Rallycross season titles. Five Blancpain series titles went to Audi R8 teams and drivers this year, and it’s become an extremely popular customer racing platform worldwide.
The Volkswagen Group is putting its money where its mouth is as well. Per Racer, Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich was recently given a two-year contract extension after having led the Audi motorsport programs since 1993.
Furthermore, no changes are expected to happen to any of Volkswagen’s customer racing programs. They’re a hit—why axe something that works?
While the existing programs are safe, dieselgate did force the company not to expand into certain efforts. In addition to a Red Bull Formula One team buyout going “up in smoke,” Road & Track reports that a Bentley IMSA P2-class prototype effort for 2017 and a Bentley one-make series were canned after the diesel trouble started.
The only existing program that may withdraw from competition is Porsche’s GTE-class WEC effort, Porsche Team Manthey—but not for the reasons you’d think. Autosport reports that the GTE squad will likely take a year off to focus on developing the facelifted 991 into a contender for 2017.
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