#10YEARSOFPOLO

In 2009 India was introduced to the concept of a “hot hatch” when Volkswagen India launched the Polo. Prior to that we Indians modified hatchbacks sold in the country, by adding a host of power and sound boosting accessories.

The Polo apart from being fun-to-drive, had oodles of power and came with segment first performance capabilities. In the decade since,  lots of competitors have come along, but the Polo still stands timeless in design and performance.

This premium hatchback that quickly stepped up to be the safest carline with a 4-star global NCAP rating for adult occupant protection. One of the biggest contributions the Polo has made to the industry is its class leading safety features. For the longest time, the Polo was the only premium hatchback to have dual airbags and ABS as standard within its segment.

Over the years, the Polo has been launched in various petrol and diesel engine options starting with the 1.6L MPI and 1.2L TDI followed by the GT TSI, GT TDI and the powerful, performance oriented 1.8L TSI Polo GTI version. In the last 10 years, this fun-to-drive hatch has witnessed eight engine options. Thus, allowing customers a wide range of engine options to choose from.

To celebrate this momentous occasion Volkswagen India had invited Rotormouth along with other auto media to drive from Mumbai to Soma Vineyards in Nashik to celebrate #10YEARSOFPOLO.

We drove there in an assortment of different VW models that are sold in India.  Soma Vineyards is one of the more recent entrants in the wine business in India. Located in Nashik the wine growing region of India, Soma Vineyards has become very popular with wine connoisseurs across the country.

To welcome us were present 4 legendary models of the Volkswagen Polo. Models that had gained a huge following with car enthusiasts worldwide.

The Polo Mk II…58819051-52FF-4C5D-A588-EF4CDA1A7704The second-generation Polo called home to two manufacturing facilities present in Wolfsburg, Germany and Pamplona, Spain. The carline was manufactured between 1981 and 1994 in three different body styles which includes a 3-door hatchback, 2-door sedan called the Polo classic and a new 3-door hatchback with a near vertical rear window (Coupé). The Polo Mk II was powered by a range of engines from 1.1L and 1.3L diesel versions to a 1.3L and 1.4L gasoline variant. Over the period the Mk II sold 2.7 million units including supercharged GT40.

The Polo GT TSI…IMG_0132Designed to be a head turner, the Polo GT is known for its legendary performance and impeccable fuel efficiency. The carline holds a lot more respect with its GT badge making the look and feel a cut above the rest. With a revolutionary 1.2L TSI engine under its body, it strikes a fine balance between power and efficiency along with a 7-speed DSG transmission. The car boasts of a 105PS of horsepower and 175 Nm torque. It delivers a fuel consumption of 24.49km/l

The Cross Polo…IMG_0129Launched in 2013, the Cross Polo is a crossover version of the Polo hatchback. The carline depicted a bold, sporty design flair, which appealed to customers with active lifestyles and a taste for adventure. The Cross Polo was available in three variants – 1.2L diesel and petrol engine options mated to a 5-speed manual transmission followed by a 1.5L TDI along with a 5-speed manual gearbox.

The Fast and Furious Polo GTIIMG_0128In 2016, Volkswagen launched a carline for the true-blue enthusiasts. Introducing the GTI philosophy to the Indian market with the brands’ hottest hatchback Polo GTI. The powerful carline comes equipped with a 1.8L TSI coupled with Volkswagen’s globally renowned DSG transmission producing a blistering 141kW (192 PS) of raw power. The Polo GTI ticks all the boxes when it comes to providing a complete performance package and sets the driver apart from his peer group. It effortlessly combines power & beauty with technical enhancements and distinctive design additions like independent bumpers, red GTI insignia, distinctive side sills and GTI specific rear spoiler.

At the official event presentation to kick-start the celebrations that evening Steffen Knapp Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars said, “Today, marks a milestone in our India journey with the Volkswagen Polo completing a decade long presence in this region. World over, the Polo has been the most loved carline with over 14 million units being sold. We’re glad Polo in India is significantly contributing and has quickly become the best-selling carline in our portfolio. Till date, the Polo receives 45 percent of first-time buyers with a strong preference towards the GT TSI variant, which comes with our globally renowned DSG gearbox.

Further, it gives me immense pleasure to inform that nearly 31 percent of women prefer buying a Volkswagen Polo over the others in this segment. Owing to its durability, build quality, safety and fun-to-drive experience.”

The Volkswagen Polo over the last decade has received several accolades across segments by automotive magazines in India and globally. The most noteworthy recognition continues to be by J.D. Power with the topmost rank awarded to the Polo over the last three consecutive years in the premium compact car segment. Followed by the Indian Blue Books award for the highest in residual value in the year 2018. “

Next morning at Zonkers Adventure Park we got to drive the POLO RX and POLO CUP TSI race cars around a small go-karting track. This showcased first-hand the racing and track capabilities of the VW Polo.IMG_0091We learnt how Sirish Vissa, Head Volkswagen Motorsport India and his team had transformed the stock Polo’s into powerful racing machines. The Polo Cup was followed by the Vento Cup and then the Ameo Cup which is a One Make Racing  National Championship Series.

Currently, Volkswagen, Europe’s leading car manufacturer offers the Polo in four engine options in India:

Polo GT TSI GT TDI
1.0L MPI | 5-speed MT 1.5L TDI | 5-speed MT 1.2L | 7-speed DSG 1.5L TDI | 5-speed MT

 

The Volkswagen Polo has so far sold over 2.5 lakh units in India. Performance, safety and all-round durability has made the VW Polo a favorite with car buyers over the last 10 years.  Here’s wishing Volkswagen India more success with the Polo for the next decade.

 

VOLKSWAGEN MOTORSPORT IN INDIA-A DECADE LONG AFFAIR

Volkswagen Motorsport is celebrating a decade’s journey in India. A journey that started with the Polo Cup and has today transitioned to the Ameo Cup one of the most premier one-make touring car racing championships in India.6.jpgTo celebrate this occasion, they have designed a beast of a track car. This was part of their “Winter Project Programme” where in 3 weeks they created the PoloRX! a powerful, rear-engine, rear wheel drive Polo for the ultimate adrenaline rush! The car, built in a Polo body shell, is equipped with Ameo Cup car’s 1.8-litre TSI engine and sequential gear box with paddle shifters. What makes the perfect car for track days is that it’s beyond any limitation of racing regulations.

The evening I landed in Chennai the conversation around the table was about the huge buzz PoloRX had created on social media.

Early next morning we landed up at MMRT. The Madras Motor Race Track is a permanent motor racing circuit located in Irungattukottai, Chennai, India. It was built in the late 1980s and was inaugurated in 1990 and is owned by the Madras Motor Sports Club. A track I have driven before last year in the Ameo Media Cup Race weekend.

After the presentation of the history and achievements of Volkswagen Motorsport worldwide, in India, post the track briefing by Rayomand Banajee, it was time to drive!1.jpgThe 1st car I drove was the INRC -1, VW Motorsport’s entry level car for rallying enthusiasts. Developed to FIA R2 regulations the car is powered by a 1.2TSI engine which puts out 145HP and 205NM Torque. We had a pilot car ahead of us on the track to guide and ensure we behave ourselves on track. The time we were allocated per car was 2 laps on the track. This was the first time I was driving the VW Motorsport Rally cars. The moment we got on the track the fun started. This car is fast, loves being thrown into corners and even if one went off-road the car handled it easily. Our 1st lap was easy paced, to get us familiar with the car and track. Lap 2 onwards was when the fun started. The suspension, driving setup and overall package on offer is fantastic. For a budding  rally enthusiast who’s looking at getting started in the rally circuit, look no further. This is the car for you.

After a quick water and biscuit break, I jumped into car no 2, the INRC 2. A car that is developed to FMSCI INRC 2 regulations which allow modifications to engine and gearbox internals. Runs a modified 1.6 MPI engine with modified engine head mated to 5-speed H-gear pattern gearbox with dog internals.2.jpgThere is more power available; the car is setup for the more advanced driver. I requested my pilot driver to drive faster which would give me an opportunity to push the envelope in terms of speed and track time. This time the 2 laps on track were sharper, more focused in terms of overall driving experience, the INRC 2 responded with utmost ease.

One was having so much fun now that the high levels of humidity were quickly forgotten.5.jpgNow it was time to drive the Polo R2, a car that had seen huge success last year in the rally circuit. A 1.6 MPI engine built for FIA R2 regulations this produces 165Hp and 205NM Torque mated to a 5-speed sequential gearbox from SADEV.  Comes with uprated caliper and discs on the front and rear, long travel suspension with custom tubular lower arms.  This was the real deal. Moment I got in and started the engine, one started getting a sense of how brutal and fast this car will be. Driving out of the pits and onto the first corner of the track the R2 was unlike the first 2 cars I had driven. Raw and visceral in character over the 2 laps on the track I got to experience what a rally driver would go through in an actual rally. The braking in this car is hugely different to the previous cars. One had to really press hard on the brake pedal to engage the brakes.

When I inquired about this difference, was told in an actual rally, the rally drivers come hard on the pedals. There’s no downtime. Everything is happening so fast…Thus this suits the drivers better than the conventional style of braking.

It was now time to start with the one make VW cup cars. First one I jumped into was Polo TDI Cup Car, the 1st car in India with a diesel power-train.3This is a 1.6 litre turbo charged engine that produces 130HP. Quick of the block, without ABS this was racing old school style. I was told that this would be a different experience as all the car I have driven so far had driving aids. This didn’t. This car was a hoot to drive. Fast, compact with the super handling characteristics that the Polo is known for everything I threw at the car it responded in equal measure. Now the 2 laps were feeling very less, one wanted to drive more! The gearbox is smooth, refined something one come to expect with VW cars. The size and shape of the Polo makes it the perfect hatch to throw around on a track day.4.jpgNext up was the Polo TSI Cup Car that comes equipped with a more powerful 1.4 litre TSI Engine that produces 180HP and is mated to a 6-speed automatic sequential DQ 250. It comes with a turbo charger and a super charger power unit. This was also the first touring race car to use paddle shifters in Indian Motorsport.  Everything about this car being more powerful was obvious past the first few corners. The automatic gearbox, lots more power made driving this a super enjoyable experience. My racing lines were improving, I was carrying more speed out of the corners. Braking late which is one of the most important skills for being a good track driver is something I need to improve on further.7.jpgThe Vento TSI Cup Car was next on the driving list. Its carries the powertrain from its predecessor the Race Polo TSI. The roll cage was welded in to provide a stiffer chassis. This with a proper race car setup provides a car which is forgiving to the rookies yet fun to drive for the experienced drivers. This couldn’t be truer. From the time I got on the track this car lived up to its reputation. Fast into corners, carrying speed out of them on the straights this became my favourite of all the cars I had driven so far. Rayo who was driving the pilot car ahead also let me drive with more abandon. I wanted to spend more time with this car, but since we were running a tight schedule one jumped into the next.IMG_7126.JPGThe Ameo Cup Race Car I had driven last year in the Ameo Cup Media race weekend. This is the first fully locally produced race car in India under the Volkswagen India Motorsport Programme. Fitted with a 1.8 litre turbo charged engine this car delivers a maximum power of 205HP. With sophisticated MoTec systems in place, this is a car that is on par with most racing series run worldwide. A sequential gearbox with 3MO in conjunction with XAP system provides seamless and very fast gear shifts making this one powerful race car.

This time around having spent more time on the track, I managed to experience everything the Ameo Cup car had to offer. Driving this one could see how the programme has evolved down the years. This is a car that is fast, setup perfectly for the professional race driver with high standards of safety. Sirish and his team have done such a good job at one-tenth of the budgets of most racing cars team worldwide which is truly impressive!8Now was time to drive the Vento ITC, which I had driven at the BIC last year during the VW Motorsport Ameo Cup race weekend. The Vento ITC race car is powered by a 1.8-litre TSI engine, mated to a 3MO sequential gearbox with a manual gearshift lever. Driving this on the track is challenging and exciting at the same time. The Vento has been designed to participate in the Indian Touring Championships. Thus, the whole setup of the car is different from the Ameo Cup car. Its’s lighter than the Ameo the suspension is set up differently.  The Vento ITC c is just the car I would buy for a day out on the track!

The last car I drove was the Track Day Vento car which is setup almost in the same way as the Vento ITC. There are some minor differences in handling, it’s more forgiving and setup ideally for the rookie and recreational track enthusiast.918 laps had whizzed by. Now it was time to take a taxi ride in the car of the moment. The Polo RX. Rayo was driving, from the get-go he showcased how insane and mad this car is. Throw into corners and its so tail happy like asking you to do more. So much power is available, Rayo was just having fun. When I asked him about how hard he drive it, he laughed and said that this was just 30% the actual potential this car has to offer!  I can’t wait to drive it! a sentiment echoed by everyone in the media contingent.10.jpgThe morning just whizzed by. Now it was time to leave.  VW Motorsport had demonstrated how in just a decade they had taken their programme to standards comparable to anywhere in the world. A big thank you to Sirish, Adhish and everyone at VW Motorsport for giving me a day to remember.

People who are interested in buying the Polo RX please get in touch with the VW Motorsport office in Pune. Believe me you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

CONVERSATION WITH SIRISH VISSA – HEAD VW MOTORSPORT INDIA

I recently caught up with Sirish Vissa, where he shared what Volkswagen Motorsport India plans for the 2019 season. 

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2018 was a great year for Volkswagen Motorsport in every regard, what are the new initiatives and changes we will see this year?

2018 was indeed an excellent year for us at Volkswagen Motorsport India in both Customer Sport programme as well as our one-make Ameo Cup.  Volkswagen Polo and Polo R2 together secured 37 podium positions and 10 victories altogether in Overall, INRC 1, INRC 2 and INRC 3 categories in the 2018 season.

We will follow the same direction in 2019 and continue to participate and prove the excellence of Volkswagen Polo cars in rallying through our Customer Sport programme. For 2019, we are further developing and updating our Polo R2 to make it even more competitive.

In terms of power, setup and development what changes will we see in the 2019 Ameo cup car compared to last year’s model?

We are always keeping ourselves busy with constant development – even if there are no major upgrades. In 2019, the Ameo Cup race car will see a few minor tweaks and fine tuning to the overall setup, especially in terms of suspension. The Ameo Cup racecar has been built in a way that it is friendly to newcomers and challenging to the pros as well. It is a fine balance that we have already achieved and there is not much we would like to change in it at the moment.

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Volkswagen motorsport saw success in the Indian rally circuit. Are we going to see the team participate in more events this year? Also, when do we see a full blown national level Volkswagen rally like the Ameo Cup?

Our Customer Sport programme is an extremely important initiative for us through which we support privateers and their teams with technical and spares support during INRC. We will continue being present at all the rounds of the INRC even this year and not compromise on any support that we extend to our customers.

A full blown rally series on the lines of Ameo Cup is something that we are not exploring. We want to stay in open competition and not restrict it in any way. Also, a factory team itself in the national rally championship is something we are consciously staying away from.

2019 marks the 10th year of Volkswagen Motorsport in India. Anything special planned to mark this occasion?

Of course! Volkswagen Motorsport India is entering its 10th year in 2019 and the idea is to stay committed to the Indian motorsport fraternity. We will continue the premium one-make series Ameo Cup in the same format as before. We are expanding our Customer Sport programme, which initially started only with rally cars and was limited to a segment, to proper involvement with variety of specs for different categories. We are also in Indian Touring Car championship now with cars that have the potential to be front runners. All in all, we have grown across different forms and series of motorsport in India and will continue with our commitment.

How soon can we expect different OEM’s to start competing with each other at the national motorsport level?

This is more of a question for other OEMs!  We have been participating in both rallying and in the Indian Touring Car Championship (ITC) where the idea is to compete with other manufacturers.  We would love to see others join in as this will make the sport more exciting for the spectators, and also add to the sport.  The new ITC regulations as well as the turbo regulations in the INRC are both forward looking and are intended to make it viable for manufacturers to bring in current and future generation cars.  I believe that we will start to see some changes within the next year.

LET’S RACE…

Fast cars zooming by…The smell of petrol in the air… Bunch of us from the media driving stock VW Ameo’s on the track… A track which has become synonymous with racing history in India. 18 drivers going hell for rubber in one of the best racing championships. Me getting access to drive the ITC VW Vento on track! If this feels like a dream every petrol head has, it sure was… A dream where I did all these things… Well, I didn’t race in the championships, but did everything else… So, without any further ado…

Thursday morning started in a spectacular way. 6 in the morning, I arrived at the Buddh International Circuit, India’s only F1 track in Greater Noida. We were invited by Volkswagen India to drive their stock Ameo’s on the track. This would give us a first-hand experience of the handling and performance of these vehicles, in an arena where you push the cars to the edge.

After the customary safety briefing by Rayomand Banajee and Karthik Tharani Singh, the two mentors/trainers of the VW Racing programme, we headed to the track.

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Paired in groups of 2 per car, we were to follow the lead cars being driven by Rayo and Karthik. I was paired with a very good friend, Ashish Jha a well-known print and TV journalist. Our lead car was being driven by Karthik. At the end of 2 laps the drivers would interchange places within the Ameo. Ashish took driving honours at the start. He has raced professionally long back which was evident in the way he kept pace with Karthik. Then came my turn. I was very lucky to have someone like Ashish who gave me a crash course in learning the racing lines. He was giving me instructions on when to brake, get on the throttle, turning hard into corners. By lap 3, I could see a marked improvement in following the racing lines.

By the time we finished, my smile refused to leave my face. Post our drive, we were taken for taxi drives in the VW Ameo cup cars by Rayo, Karthik and Sirish Vissa, Head Volkswagen Motorsport India. This was a complete contrast to our earlier drive, giving us a total perspective on how versatile and fast the Ameo can be.

This weekend was the final race weekend of the VW Ameo Cup 2018. The title was a foregone conclusion, barring a horrible and practically impossible result for the leader Dhruv Mohite. Dhruv had impressed all season and this weekend didn’t look any different. VW Motorsport India had invited 2 well known motoring journalists Dhruv Behl editor/publisher autoX and Cyrus Dhabhar Car & Bike Show, NDTV India to race during this weekend. Dhruv is undoubtedly the fastest driver amongst the automotive media fraternity in India. They were going to 3 free practice sessions and from session 1 the drivers went for it.

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Dhruv Mohite was setting the fastest times which wasn’t a surprise. The real surprise came from Dhruv Behl’s timings… He was just a second off Dhruv Mohite’s timings. Considering this was the 1st time he had tested and driven this car it was a phenomenal result. But those who know Dhruv’s Behl’s racing history know in the past he has started from the last place on the grid and landed up on the podium. Now the drivers had to contend with a journalist apart from their own. This was building up to an exciting qualifying session on Saturday.

DAY 2 started off with me riding around the pits on Ducati motorcycles. Yes you read it right! Apart from the excitement of the VW Ameo cup cars there was a Ducati Hypermotard, 848 Evo and Multistrada at the track. These belonged to Sirish Vissa Head, VW Motorsport India, Adhish Alawani Head Corporate Communications VW Motorsport India and Aaron Mendonza a sailor by profession. Adhish and Aaron along with a 3rd friend had ridden their Ducati’s from Pune to Delhi!

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This afternoon I was going to drive the VW ITC Vento around BIC! When I got into the Vento and started it…woaah!, This car was loud. Driving out of the pits and onto an empty track, well the fun had just begun. The education of learning the racing lines was very helpful (Thank you Ashish 🙂 ).

The ITC Volkswagen Vento race car is powered by a 1.8-litre TSI engine, mated to a 3MO sequential gearbox with a manual gearshift lever. Driving this on the track is challenging and exciting at the same time. The Vento has been designed to participate in the Indian Touring Championships. Thus the whole setup of the car is different from the Ameo Cup car. Its’s lighter than the Ameo the suspension is set up differently. Lap 1 in this car was all about learning the limits to which I could drive the car…

Lap 2 onwards I got more confident and comfortable, reflecting in the improvement in lap times (nowhere close to the times being set by the professional racers!) The few laps I drove the Vento around the BIC was enough to convince me, that this is what I am going to buy in the future for track days…

On discussing this with Sirish, he told me this is exactly what they want. They are looking to sell this car to prospective customers who want to buy a race car for track days. This is a first of sorts, as no other car track racing programme in India offers such an opportunity. If anyone is interested, please get in touch with Volkswagen Motorsport for the Vento. Believe me, you will not want to stop driving this car, that’s how good the Vento is!

By the time we headed to the hotel nothing could wipe the look of satisfaction off my face…

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THE AMEO CUP

Saturday arrived with a bang. For the 1st time in my life, I sat pillion on a superbike. Riding to the track on Adhish’s 848 Evo was one mad experience… Most people at the track felt I was crazy! Today’s agenda was the last practice of the season and then qualifying. The practice session went according to script, with the favourites clocking good times.

Post lunch when qualifying started all the predictions went out of the window. Pratik Sonawane drove like a man possessed. He was in the form of his life, reflected in the lap time he set. He set a time of 2:21:595 a good 0.6 seconds faster than favourite Dhruv Mohite. Dhruv Behl took the 3rd place on the grid, which wasn’t surprising, considering the pace he set in practice.

Would Pratik Sonawane upset Dhruv Mohite? Will Dhruv Behl be good enough to get on the podium. These questions and more were discussed over dinner and late into the night. The day finally arrived. Sunday was a packed race day. Apart from the 2 Ameo Cup races, there were 2-wheeler races as well.

The atmosphere in the pits was a mix of tension, uncertainty and anxiety for the drivers. The support crew and mechanics were happy at a successful season coming to an end. There was a substantial level of crowd support. This was very heartening to see. Motorsports is probably one of the most exciting sports to watch anywhere in the world.

India is still playing catch up, which is surprising as at one time race weekends attracted crowds in the thousands in the decades 70’s till the early 90’s…

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Race 1 started half an hour behind schedule. But the moment they went on their sighting lap, you could see these guys meant business. All the camaraderie in the pits was forgotten. Now it was each man/woman for himself/herself… The race started.

By lap 1 the pre-race script was thrown out of the window. Dhruv Mohite was immediately in the lead. However, later in the first lap he had an incident with Pratik Sonawane which pushed him down the order. This gave Dhruv Behl a chance to take the lead, followed by Pratik Sonawane and Saurav Bandyopadhyay. On the last corner of Lap 1 Arefeen Raafi Ahmed had an incident that caused the Safety Car to come out. Since, Arefeen’s car was stranded at the last corner so, the race had to be red flagged and restarted. Shortly after the restart, Shubhomoy Ball went off the third corner that forced the Safety Car to come back in again. Unfortunately for everyone concerned the rest of Race 1 was held under Safety Car. The top three drivers stayed in the same order till the chequered flag with the Safety Car going back into the pits only on the last lap.

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A mention here for Saurav Bandyopadhyay who had just recovered from dengue. He had missed most of the free practice sessions earlier in the week. This didn’t stop him from taking the third position. Hats off to his resilience and passion for racing.

Race 2 started off with Jeet in the pole position, Dhruv Mohite in the second position and Anmol Singh in the third position. On the second lap of the race Akshay Bhivshet and Tauhid Anwar spun off in the first corner bringing out the Safety Car. Unlike the first race though, the Safety Car went back in after two laps and the drivers got back on to race pace. On the fifth lap, Affan challenged Anmol for the third position, got past him and held his position till the last lap. Anmol didn’t give up till the end and made his move on Affan on the last lap to clinch the final spot on the podium.

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With Dhruv Mohite finishing second in the race, he secured enough points to win the Ameo Cup 2018 title with a strong lead over Saurav Bandyopadhyay. The battle for the second position in the final standings was a tight one between Saurav and Jeet, with Jeet having to settle in third position overall. The Junior star of the Ameo Cup 2018 was Shubhomoy Ball who showed terrific dedication throughout the season. With a gap of over 92 points in the final standings of the Junior category, it was a clear win for Shubhomoy.

Sirish and his team had once again run a fantastic season. The Ameo Cup is one of the finest in the country and doing so much to unearth racing talent in India. Now it was time for the after party and celebrations.

Driving various cars on tracks, racing Ducati’s, it was one crazy adrenaline fuelled adventure. A big thank you to everyone at Volkswagen Motor Sport for inviting me for this event. Can’t wait for the next season of the Ameo Cup to start…

See you at the VW Ameo Cup in 2019…