Your favorite World Rally Car #3: Volkswagen Polo R WRC

The most successful car in WRC history, the Polo makes the podium in our popularity vote despite its dominance

Jari-Matti Latvala – Action

On most World Rally Car lists, the Volkswagen Polo R WRC belongs at #1.

Which car has won the most rallies in World Rally Championship history? The Polo.

Which car won every single title it was eligible for throughout its competition history? Of course, it’s the Polo.

Which car has won on over 80% of its starts? You get the idea.

But when it comes to popularity, Hannover’s finest finds itself in the uncustomary position of third. Ahead of most, but not at the very top of DirtFish’s poll to find the fans’ favorite World Rally Car.

Jari-Matti Latvala - Action

Truthfully though, it’s actually a bit of a surprise that the Polo R ranked this highly. Success doesn’t often appeal – the same car or driver winning constantly tends to build resentment from onlookers.

But clearly there’s a level of appreciation for what Volkswagen Motorsport managed to achieve with the Polo, and perhaps it’s the mystique of how the story ended that helps boost it in these stakes.

Volkswagen Polo R WRC key stats

Rally wins 43
Drivers’ titles 4 (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Manufacturers’ titles 4 (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)

Volkswagen had produced rally cars before, but never for the very top class of the WRC. That all changed in 2011 when it announced it would be entering the championship from 2013 with its Polo R model.

It was clear that it was serious about its ambitions when it acquired the services of Sébastien Ogier in late 2011. Ogier, who’d fallen out with Sébastien Loeb and needed to exit Citroën, could’ve gone to Ford, but he chose to take a year out of top-line competition to develop and drive the Polo R for 2013.

Was it a gamble? Maybe, but history certainly proves it was worth it. Ogier set a second-fastest time on the car’s very first stage on the Monte Carlo Rally, and gave it its very first win on the very next rally in Sweden. Quite the return for a team that had only targeted podiums in year one…

Sebastien Ogier - Action

Ogier ultimately won the title at a canter. He scooped nine victories from 13, while team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala grabbed another one, and the VW steamroller continued in 2014 as the team won every rally but one.

2015 was nearly as successful as the Polos of Ogier, Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen topped 11 of the 13 rallies, while the randomness of 2016 lowered the bar a little; VW only winning eight events.

The headline figure though is that of its 52 rallies, the Polo won 43 of them – 31 in the hands of Ogier. Quite simply, it was a cut above what Citroën, M-Sport Ford and Hyundai had produced to compete with.

In all likelihood, the second iteration of the car for the 2017 regulations would have been just as potent but amid the Volkswagen Group’s controversial dieselgate scandal, the pin was pulled from VW’s rallying program in the aftermath of Rally GB 2016.

That suddenly meant the team had just one rally left before it quit the WRC and a load of effort it had already put into the following year’s machine was rendered useless in an instant.

Perhaps this was the best thing for the WRC as the 2017 season was an incredibly open affair with all four teams – Citroën, M-Sport, Hyundai and the returning Toyota – taking victories, but there will always be a lingering ‘what if?’ about what an even faster and more aggressive Polo could have achieved.

Andreas Mikkelsen - Action

We almost had the chance to see it as VW Motorsport worked on plans to get the car homologated by another party but that process ultimately never took off, leaving the 2017-spec Polo R WRC as one of those epic rally cars to be mothballed and never see a competition stage.

It’s clear that the Polo left an immeasurable impression on the WRC though given its podium place in this ranking. It also made a mark on an Americam currently chasing the rallying dream.

“The Polo R WRC is a special car to me as it’s the car that Ogier first dominated with,” WRC2 driver Sean Johnston tells DirtFish. “His performances in that car are what first solidified him as a rallying legend in my eyes and transformed him into the inspirational driver that he is to me and so many others.

“And, seeing Ogier blast by in the Polo during my first WRC spectating experience at Rally Germany back in 2015 on his way to the first ‘home’ victory for VW was a big catalyst in sparking my true passion for the sport of rallying!”

Check out the rest of the results from your favorite World Rally car poll below, and keep your eyes out on Thursday when both the winner and the runner-up will be announced.

Pos Car No. of votes % of votes
3 Volkswagen Polo R WRC 344 5.9
4 Ford Fiesta WRC 293 5.0
5 Toyota Yaris WRC 251 4.3
6 Subaru Impreza S12 WRC 250 4.3
7 Toyota Corolla WRC 227 3.9
8 Peugeot 206 WRC 209 3.6
9 Ford Escort WRC 199 3.4
10 Ford Focus RS WRC ’99-‘02 182 3.1
11 Ford Focus RS WRC ’03-‘05 174 3.0
12 Peugeot 307 WRC 172 3.0
13 Subaru Impreza S7-S8 WRC 159 2.7
14 Subaru Impreza S9-S11 WRC 148 2.5
15 Citroën Xsara WRC 135 2.3
16 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 118 2.0
17 Seat Córdoba WRC 108 1.9
18 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution WRC 98 1.7
19 Ford Focus WRC ’06-‘09 92 1.6
20 Škoda Fabia WRC 75 1.3
21 Citroën C4 WRC 60 1.0
22 Citroën DS3 WRC 52 0.9
23 Mitsubishi Lancer WRC 44 0.8
24 Mini John Cooper Works WRC 39 0.7
25 Ford Fiesta RS WRC 33 0.6
26= Hyundai Accent WRC 29 0.5
26= Suzuki SX4 WRC 29 0.5
28 Citroën C3 WRC 25 0.4
29 Subaru Impreza S14 WRC 21 0.4
30 Hyundai NG i20 WRC 7 0.1
31 Hyundai i20 WRC 5 0.1