#10YearsofPolo

To celebrate 10 years of the Polo in India, Volkswagen India had organised an event at the Madras Motor Racetrack, Chennai last weekend. This event was to showcase the driving capabilities of the stock Polo’s on a racetrack followed by the Polo Cup race cars.IMG_9500.jpgThe Madras Motor Racetrack is a permanent motor racing circuit located in Irungattukottai, Chennai, India. It was built in the late 1980’s and was inaugurated in 1990 and is owned by the Madras Motor Sports Club

The VW Polo ever since its launch a decade ago has quickly gone on to become one of India’s favourite “hot” hatchbacks. This is a category which has seen quite a few players enter in the last while. But no one has remotely seen the success the Polo has got. Reasons are plenty.

The original design of the Polo while being subtle has moved with the times. It has a certain timeless quality and appeal attached to it. That’s why even now when you look at the Polo, one hears comments such as “How the car’s design still looks fresh” “It’s a good-looking car “. I got a lot of such comments on social media the last time one reviewed the Polo.IMG_9559.jpgIMG_9544.jpgVolkswagen has made changes to the Polo’s exterior design down the years though. The grille, bumper, headlights, integrated fog lamps along with cornering lights were some of the design changes that happened in the last facelift of the car 2 years back. All VW cars have clean straight lines and solid design language. The Polo is no different. There is a chrome line running through the intake grille. The rear bumper along with the tail lamp cluster all add to the premium positioning of the car. Integrating the license plate into the rear bumper gives it a cleaner finish. The Polo comes with 15-inch alloy wheels while the lower spec variants get the 14-inch rims with newer wheel covers.

I had driven the Polo Cup Cars on the same racetrack in March of this yea at an event to celebrate 10 years of Volkswagen Motorsport in India. This was the 1st time I was driving these stock polos on the track. The conditions were overcast, early in the morning. There had been sporadic rainfall during the night. Thus, at the briefing we were told to take it easy and follow the pace car. Overtaking is a complete no-no at such events, as this isn’t a race but an appreciation of enjoying the full capabilities of the cars without taking any undue risks to oneself or the other drivers on track.

Our pace car was driven by Rayomand Banajee, 8-time national racing champion and driver coach at VW Motorsport India. I started with the manual Polo GT TDI Sport. The MMRT is one of my favourite racetracks which over the years has improved by leaps and bounds. Driving in damp conditions was a little challenging, but Rayo was making sure we drove at a pace that gave us enough opportunity to experience the driving capabilities of the Polo on track.IMG_9537.jpgThe GT TDI Sport is one of the best hot hatch manuals in the business. Carrying speed into corners, touching 3-digit speeds, excellent braking characteristics. Driving a manual on the racetrack has its own charm and appeal.

Next up was the Polo GT TSI Automatic. Volkswagen has amongst the best automatic transmission systems in the business. The delivery of power is linear and smooth, no lag is experienced. This was obvious when one was throwing the car into corners, the acceleration into corners and out was brisk. By now the track had dried up quite a bit, so we are driving faster compared to earlier. The Polo’s setup is ideally suited to the tight and twisty MMRT circuit.IMG_7691.JPGIMG_7693.JPGNow after a few laps with the stock Polo’s, it was time for a taxi ride in the Polo RX. This is a powerful, rear-engine, rear wheel drive Polo designed for the ultimate adrenaline rush! Built in a Polo body shell, the RX is equipped with Ameo Cup car’s 1.8-litre TSI engine and sequential gear box with paddle shifters. The RX is the perfect car for track days, that’s beyond any limitation of racing regulations. Driving this was Karthik Tharani Singh one of the topmost track drivers in India today. Karthik is also a driver coach for the Ameo Cup Drivers, Polo R Cup winner in 2014 and is presently one of the VW Motorsport  factory drivers  in the MRF MMSC FMSCI Indian National Car Racing Championship 2019. In a span of the first few corners, Karthik showcased the full capability of the Polo RX. The noise of the engine, the way the car handles, the fierce acceleration every minute in the Polo RX was of sheer delight and unbridled joy. I can see lots of racing enthusiasts lining up to purchase this fast and furious Polo RX!IMG_9531.jpgIt was now time to start with the Polo Cup cars. First one I jumped into was Polo TDI Cup Car, the 1st car in India with a diesel power-train. This 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 cars 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.COLLAGE.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. As the track was drying up, we found it easier to follow the racing lines, now one was carrying more speed out of the corners.IMG_9549With driving duties done for the day it was time to head back to Mumbai. Spending time with Volkswagen Polo cars on a racetrack is always exciting and fun. A perfect way to celebrate #10YearsofPolo in India.

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.