When Dieselgate ended up killing off Volkswagen’s World Rally Championship program, one man—one lone hero—stepped up to try and save it. The rally world rejoiced when two-time Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah said he aimed to rescue the Polo R program, but now we start the new year off with some bad news: it’s not happening quite yet.
There was too little time to make the promising partnership between Volkswagen and Al-Attiyah work for 2017, reports Motorsport.com. Fortunately, Al-Attiyah still wants to run Volkswagen’s abandoned WRC car in 2018, and has shifted his focus on entering it then.
Qatari rally driver Al-Attiyah explained to Motorsport.com that the timing was particularly tight right at the holidays to get things ready in time for this year:
The talks came when there were some celebrations in Qatar, and that didn’t help us that much. The time was very limited.
We’ll work on this project in early 2017 in order to make it a reality for 2018.
Perhaps worst of all, the late timing also put the man who led Volkswagen Motorsport to four consecutive drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships—Sébastien Ogier—out of reach for the team. Al-Attiyah continued:
The idea [of hiring Volkswagen’s former drivers Andreas Mikkelsen and Sébastien Ogier] was well welcomed in Qatar. But unfortunately we were not able to keep Ogier waiting for a long time.
Substantial costs were rumored to have held up the project. Each Polo was to cost an estimated $10.5 million to run and homologating the new Polos was an additional $15.7 million on top of that, per a tweet WRC commentator Colin Clark acknowledged as “about right.” That’s a lot of money even for Qatar, so I’m sure having an extra year to save up should help regardless of whether that was the main hold-up or not.
We were excited to hear that the nearly-baked Polo R WRC car might end up running in spite of Volkswagen pulling out of the WRC. The saddest race cars are the ones that never get used, but get immediately pulled back into storage. So, running in 2018 is better than not running at all—and Mikkelsen may still be available then, too. Good luck, Al-Attiyah. We’re all counting on you.