After five-and-a-half years Volkswagen retired the venerable Beetle from rallycross competition at the end of the 2019 season.
The popular machine has been the most successful car in North American rallycross during its time in competition, winning 29 of the 52 races it entered, and claiming a staggering 60 podium finishes overall across Global Rallycross, Americas Rallycross, X Games, and Nitro Rallycross.
“Adapting such a loveable car as the Beetle for the contact sport that is rallycross was by no means an everyday task for us,” said Volkswagen Motorsport director Sven Smeets following the car’s final competitive event. “With four-wheel drive and 553 bhp under the bonnet, the Beetle raced its way into the history books of US motorsport. Congratulations to the Volkswagen Andretti Motorsport team, which was virtually unbeatable with the Beetle for five years.”
As the cars settle into their new life of retirement, here’s a look back at the Beetles’ top-10 hits from their tenure at the summit of rallycross in North America.
Introducing… The Beetles
Volkswagen arrived in rallycross amid much fanfare. The German manufacturer, in partnership with legendary IndyCar outfit Andretti Autosport, announced the foray at the 2014 Chicago auto show in the February of that year, but it wasn’t until the GRC rounds in Los Angeles seven months later that the car made its bow.
Tanner Foust was the driver to debut the car while Scott Speed, who was in the midst of a title fight, remained in the Marklund-built Polo the team had been running in the interim. While the Beetle took a heat win right away on its debut, teething troubles with the car’s 1.6-litre engine led to its weekend ending early. Speed meanwhile took his third win of the season in the ageing Polo.
By the season finale in Las Vegas two rounds later both Foust and Speed were in Beetles. Despite most of the early issues now being ironed out, it was a hard day – and night – for Speed who missed out on a maiden rallycross crown. He finished fourth in the final race of the season after a collision with Bucky Lasek, taking third in the overall points.
First podium in Florida
After its cameo appearance in the tail end of the 2014 season the Beetle returned for 2015. This time the rally-derived 1.6-litre engine had been ditched in favour of a more appropriate 2.0-litre rallycross unit.
The switched paid off with Speed claiming a fine second place on the streets of Fort Lauderdale in Florida. It wasn’t a win, but that wasn’t far off…
Speed claims gold at the X Games in Austin
For the 2015 GRC season the X Games rallycross competition – the event that pretty much created rallycross in the US – was split from the national series calendar. It was no less prestigious though and success there afforded the winner serious bragging rights.
After making a strong start in the final, Speed got shuffled back into the pack at the first corner and had to fight his way back through the field. After a tense battle with Brian Deegan, Speed held off a charging Steve Arpin in the final stages to claim a third X Games gold medal, and a landmark maiden win for the Beetle.
Adding to the Daytona legend
Many legendary names and machines have won at the iconic Daytona International Speedway over the years, and in 2015 Foust and the Beetle were added to the roll of honour, with the American following Speed’s X Games triumph to give the car its first points-paying victory.
In what was the second-ever rallycross race at Daytona, Foust leapt from the second row of the grid and capitalised on an opening lap clash between front-row starters Ken Block and Patrik Sandell to dominate the final. He beat Austin Dyne and Sebastian Eriksson to take the landmark win.
The Beetles hit their stride
Despite the strong start to the year, both Foust, Speed, and the Beetle endured a tumultuous mid-season.
However, as the team returned to LA, the scene of the car’s debut a year earlier, its Misery would end – and in style. There, after five winless races, Speed secured back-to-back wins at the double-header event with Foust taking a second and a third place.
Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross then added to the trophy haul in Barbados where it was Foust’s turn to take two wins in a single weekend, Speed finishing second on both days.
Speed is number one
After four wins from four in the latter stages of the 2015 GRC season Speed and Foust entered the 2015 season finale in Vegas as the only two drivers capable of winning the title.
It didn’t matter that neither driver extended the winning run, Speed’s third place finish gave him the crown, beginning the Beetle’s unbeaten title-winning streak.
More of the same in 2016
Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross began the 2016 season where it left off, with Foust claiming back-to-back victories in the opening rounds of the season in Phoenix and once again winning in Daytona in round five. Speed came to the fore in the second half of the year, helping him claim a second-straight championship.
Over the course of the season Foust and Speed combined to win eight of the 11 races that year – four apiece – with Speed once again taking the title with a podium finish in the final race of the year.
10 in a row
While the Beetle’s form in 2015 and 2016 was impressive, it was nothing compared to the run that the car enjoyed across the 2017 and ’18 seasons.
From round seven of the 2017 GRC season, right the way through to the conclusion of the 2018 Americas Rallycross season, the Beetle won 10 races in a row – a record not matched by any other car in modern-day international rallycross.
Speed won three-in-a-row, including the team’s home race at Indianapolis, before Foust won twice in Seattle and again in LA, which would end up being the last ever GRC race.
As the rallycross scene in the US transitioned to the new-for-2018 ARX series, the Beetle remained the car to beat. Foust won the first-ever ARX race at Silverstone, and again at the 2018 season finale in Austin, Texas. In the intervening time, Speed claimed back-to-back wins in Austin and Trois-Rivières in Canada. Once again the Beetle was the envy of the field and Speed was champion.
Ahead of the 2019 season Speed left the all-conquering Volkswagen Andretti squad to lead Subaru’s factory effort and was replaced by Cabot Bigham.
The youngster, only competing in his second top-level season, struggled at first but enjoyed a massive breakthrough when ARX returned to Canada. The American shocked the field with a hugely-impressive win in his semi-final. That gave him pole position for the final, which was won by Foust with Bigham a close second, earning him his maiden rallycross Supercar podium.
The fab fifth
With Speed out, Foust became the team’s best hope of continuing its championship run. It took until the third round of the season at Gateway for Foust to take to the podium, but from then on he took back-to-back wins, including a dominant display at Trois-Rivières.
Speed ended up sitting out of the second half of the season due to injury, giving Foust a clear run to what was his third rallycross title, and the Beetle’s fifth in the five full seasons in participated in.
“This is a fantastic end to the Rallycross era with the Volkswagen Beetle,” said Scott Keogh, CEO Volkswagen Group of America. “We are delighted that Tanner won the title for Volkswagen and Andretti Rallycross. Every employee will share this joy with us. The Beetle has been a magnificent ambassador for the sport and our brand.”
Following its retirement, the Beetle made one final appearance at the GP Ice Race event in Austria earlier this year. It also features in Foust’s recently-released Quantum Drift 2 video.
Volkswagen Beetle rallycross victories
|2015||X Games Austin||Scott Speed|
|2015||GRC Daytona I||Tanner Foust|
|2015||GRC Los Angeles I||Scott Speed|
|2015||GRC Los Angeles II||Scott Speed|
|2015||GRC Barbados I||Tanner Foust|
|2015||GRC Barbados II||Tanner Foust|
|2016||GRC Phoenix I||Tanner Foust|
|2016||GRC Phoenix II||Tanner Foust|
|2016||GRC Daytona II||Tanner Foust|
|2016||GRC MCAS New River||Scott Speed|
|2016||GRC Washington DC||Scott Speed|
|2016||GRC Atlantic City||Scott Speed|
|2016||GRC Seattle||Tanner Foust|
|2016||GRC Los Angeles I||Scott Speed|
|2017||GRC Memphis||Scott Speed|
|2017||GRC Thompson I||Tanner Foust|
|2017||GRC Ottawa II||Tanner Foust|
|2017||GRC Indianapolis||Scott Speed|
|2017||GRC Atlantic City I||Scott Speed|
|2017||GRC Atlantic City II||Scott Speed|
|2017||GRC Seattle I||Tanner Foust|
|2017||GRC Seattle II||Tanner Foust|
|2017||GRC Los Angeles||Tanner Foust|
|2018||ARX Silverstone||Tanner Foust|
|2018||ARX Austin I||Scott Speed|
|2018||ARX GP3R||Scott Speed|
|2018||ARX Austin II||Tanner Foust|
|2019||ARX GP3R||Tanner Foust|
|2019||ARX Austin||Tanner Foust|
Tanner Foust: 16
Scott Speed: 13
Other Volkswagen Beetle rallycross podiums
|2015||2nd||GRC Fort Lauderdale||Scott Speed|
|2015||2nd||GRC Detroit I||Scott Speed|
|2015||2nd||GRC Detroit II||Scott Speed|
|2015||2nd||GRC Los Angeles I||Tanner Foust|
|2015||3rd||GRC Los Angeles II||Tanner Foust|
|2015||2nd||GRC Barbados I||Scott Speed|
|2015||2nd||GRC Barbados II||Scott Speed|
|2015||3rd||GRC Las Vegas||Scott Speed|
|2016||2nd||GRC Phoenix II||Scott Speed|
|2016||3rd||GRC Dallas||Tanner Foust|
|2016||2nd||GRC Daytona II||Scott Speed|
|2016||3rd||GRC Washington DC||Tanner Foust|
|2016||2nd||GRC Los Angeles I||Tanner Foust|
|2016||2nd||GRC Los Angeles II||Scott Speed|
|2017||2nd||GRC Memphis||Tanner Foust|
|2017||3rd||GRC Louisville||Scott Speed|
|2017||2nd||GRC Thompson I||Scott Speed|
|2017||2nd||GRC Thompson II||Scott Speed|
|2017||2nd||GRC Ottawa I||Tanner Foust|
|2017||2nd||GRC Ottawa II||Scott Speed|
|2017||2nd||GRC Indianapolis||Tanner Foust|
|2017||2nd||GRC Seattle I||Scott Speed|
|2017||2nd||GRC Seattle II||Scott Speed|
|2017||2nd||GRC Los Angeles||Scott Speed|
|2018||2nd||ARX Silverstone||Scott Speed|
|2018||3rd||ARX Austin I||Tanner Foust|
|2018||2nd||ARX GP3R||Tanner Foust|
|2018||3rd||Nitro Rallycross||Tanner Foust|
|2018||2nd||ARX Austin II||Scott Speed|
|2019||2nd||ARX Gateway II||Tanner Foust|
|2019||2nd||ARX GP3R||Cabot Bigham|
Tanner Foust: 12
Scott Speed: 18
Cabot Bigham: 1