Wolfsburg (31 July 2011). The countdown starts – Volkswagen contests the FIA World Rally Championship with the Polo R WRC from 2013. In the Neste Oil Rally Finland, the eighth of 13 World Championship rounds this year, the Volkswagen Motorsport team completed its first test rally with cars from the group brand Škoda this weekend.
A pair of 270 hp Škoda Fabia S2000 from the SWRC were used and driven by the Norwegian driver pair Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Floene and the Finnish duo Joonas Lindroos/Pasi Kilpeläinen. Unfortunately both Škodas failed to make the finish on their rally debut for Volkswagen Motorsport. Lindroos/Kilpeläinen retired after rolling on the eighth special stage, radiator damage caused by a stone on the 17th stage meant the end for Mikkelsen/ Floene.
"Despite the two retirements the rally was a successful start for the entire team,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "The service crews did an excellent job during their first event. The procedures functioned very well, my thanks to the whole team. The driver pairings also did a great job. Andreas Mikkelsen and his co-driver Ola Floene were particularly impressive and showed flashes of brilliance. In general, we collected valuable experience during this first rally weekend and learnt a great deal. We now look forward to competing in the ADAC Rally Germany in the middle of August."
Norwegian duo Mikkelsen/Floene put in a faultless and consistent performance throughout the entire weekend. The car with start number 54 ran strongly in third position before a stone robbed all hopes of a podium on stage 17. Unfortunately, at kilometer 12.7 a stone hit and penetrated the radiator on the Škoda S2000. Mikkelsen actually finished the stage with the second fastest time in the SWRC category ahead of leader Juho Hänninen. However, it was not possible to continue driving. Mikkelsen held 15th position in the overall standings at that time. "I tried to fulfil the team goals: to get to the finish quickly but without accidents,” says the 22-year old. "On the whole I really enjoyed the weekend with Volkswagen Motorsport. The atmosphere in the team is fantastic and I hope that it wasn't my last rally for them.”
The Finnish weekend ran less smoothly for Lindroos/Kilpeläinen: two accidents on the sixth and eighth stages ended any hope of running among the leaders in front of the home crowd.
The Volkswagen Motorsport team will compete in other selected rallies in 2011 with cars from the Volkswagen group brand Škoda. Top talents will be given the opportunity to qualify for a 2013 WRC cockpit in the Polo R WRC during these competitive rallies. The German Christian Riedemann and Heins Weijs from the Netherlands aim to showcase their abilities at the next World Championship round the ADAC German Rally (18-21 August) in Trier.