NZ rally debut for VW Polos
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POCKET ROCKETS EXPECTED TO PACK A PUNCH, WRITES MATTHEW HANSEN
The domestic rally circuit is set for two additions with new Volkswagen Polos having a crack at both the New Zealand Rally Championship and Rally Xtreme titles, in the hands of returning driver Shannon Chambers.
The new cars will contribute to what is expected to be the strongest rally season in this country for more than a decade.
Following a stint racing power boats, Chambers becomes the latest name to base his rally ambitions on a smaller platform.
“We’ve always had it in our heads that we wanted a car that is cost-effective, looks good and goes good. You’ve got to get that balancing act just right so that we can attract new people into the sport, and people can afford to run these cars,” Chambers told Driven.
Not only do the Polos look identical to their WRC brethren, they will also have the pace to match. While on the outside they will have a compact VW body, under the bonnet both cars will run alternative engines; the gravel version to run componentry from a Mitsubishi Evolution X, while the tarmac version will run an “insanely powerful” 750hp Cosworth engine. Chambers will strap himself in for the gravel events, while John Rae will pilot the tarmac example.
“We are going to start with Evo running gear, get some good results then look to develop our own running gear for the Polo as we go,” he said.
Chambers and Pilcher aren’t the first team to seek an alternative flavour to the traditional Group N, with Andrew Hawkeswood (Mazda 2), Emma Gilmour (Suzuki Swift Sport) and Alex Kelsey (Peugeot 207 MC2) all weighing in with their smaller, more creative answers to the rallying question. However, Chambers believes that the more proven platform his cars present make them a more formidable concept.
“Alex [Kelsey] is extremely clever with his design, but we need to bring in cars that anyone can build and run. And it’s the same with Emma [Gilmour’s] car. Emma’s car has had a heap of development, and it’s still unproven.”
The cars will land in New Zealand later this month, and are expected to be completed by August.
Round one of the 2015 New Zealand Rally Championship kicks off next weekend at the International Rally of Whangarei, where Chambers will be competing in his existing Group N Mitsubishi Evolution X.
The round will be a double-header, with the Asia Pacific Rally Championship competing simultaneously.