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INRC: Turbocharged R2 likely to feature in 2019 says Sirish Vissa in an exclusive interview 

Shahid Salman
SENIOR ANALYST
Editor's Pick
87   //    26 Feb 2019, 17:52 IST

Mr Sirish Vissa - Head of VW Motorsport India
Mr Sirish Vissa - Head of VW Motorsport India

We recently managed to get in touch with Sirish Vissa, head of Volkswagen Motorsport India, where we discussed VW's plans for the 2019 Indian National Rally Championship.

Volkswagen as manufacturer won the most podiums in the 2018 season of the INRC in which the Volkswagen Polo and Polo R2 together secured 37 podium positions and 10 victories altogether.

What's new for INRC 2019?

Volkswagen Motorsport India will continue to participate and prove the excellence of Volkswagen Polo cars in the INRC through its Customer Sport programme. For 2019, we will also upgrade our Polo R2 to make it more competitive.

Do we get to see the Turbocharged Polo compete for Overall honors in 2019?

The Polo R2 is a very capable car. During the Kochi rally, we saw it in full glory where it was the fastest overall in a couple of stages. This shows that the current car has the potential to win. For 2019, we are developing the Polo R2 further from a naturally aspirated engine to a turbocharged one, which will give us the added torque to help the drivers accelerate out of corners better.  

What makes the Polo so special for Rallying? We have seen it perform extremely well be it in the INRC or the WRC.

The Polo epitomizes the qualities that set Volkswagen cars apart. It starts off with a solid compact chassis that is one of the best in class in terms of rigidity. Once we modify it to make it into a rally car, it only improves the package further. This added to the reliable and powerful drivetrain, makes the car handle very well, and of course gives it the necessary speed. The WRC car just takes these qualities further.

What is the reason for Volkswagen not entering as a works team in INRC?

One of the key focus areas of our motorsport program in India is to develop the sport. While it would be quite easy for us to enter a factory team, this would limit our involvement to 2 or 3 cars. This would be very good for us as a manufacturer, however it would not help in strengthening the sport. The way we do rallying in India, we are supporting and strengthening the eco system for the sport, and the result is of course that now we have more and more customers choosing to rally a Polo over any other car. We are proud of all of the customers and are happy to support them in their efforts by ensuring that we continue to develop cars and are present to assist them with technical support.

R2 in action - INRC South India Rally 2018 (Photo Credits: Anand Philar)
R2 in action - INRC South India Rally 2018 (Photo Credits: Anand Philar)

The 1.6 Polos have outpaced the R2 on most occasions, what do you think is the reason for it?

The Volkswagen Polo R2 is without a doubt the fastest and best rally car we have built at Volkswagen Motorsport India. And when it is driven to its potential has shown its speed and handling to set fastest stage times overall. Unfortunately, when the car was run by a privateer the combination that is essential for the performance didn’t come together as it should have. It means driver, co-driver, team and the car- incomplete line. However, we did see areas for improvement and are actively working on these points for the upcoming season.

Is the Turbo Powered Polo the answer to Mahindra's dominance in INRC?

With the turbocharged engine and the other developments, the car will be quicker for sure; but this season will be a development season for us. We will keep working on enhancing the car’s performance. One of the areas we will need to work on with our customers is to also hone the skills of the driver and co-drivers, to be able to maximize their performance as well. This is a sport that needs more than the fastest car to win.

Any plans of entering the cross country rallies in India?

We are open to developing and building Motorsport cars for all possible formats in India. We have a good base with our existing rally cars that have performed well both on the tarmac and in gravel. If the demand arises, we would be more than happy to build cars specific to cross country events.

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