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Volkswagen is heading full-steam ahead into the World Rally Championship next year with three examples of the car you see here.
Yesterday we brought you the new Volkswagen Polo R WRC street edition, a new 220-horsepower limited-edition hot hatch. But that roadgoing Polo is only a shadow (albeit a commercially-available shadow, in some markets anyway) of the car you see here. The product of seventeen months of intensive development, the new Polo R WRC is set to tackle the 2013 World Rally Championship. In accordance with series regulations, the WRC-spec Polo packs a 1.6-liter turbo four driving 315 horsepower to all four wheels.
The car was officially launched this weekend in Monte Carlo, where it was announced that Andreas Mikkelsen will drive a third car to be entered in the championship next season. The Norwegian driver is the reigning two-time champion in the second-tier Intercontinental Rally Challenge with Volkswagen's sister brand Skoda, whose Fabia S2000 formed much of the basis of the Polo's development. The other two cars will be driven by Sebastien Ogier (who has won numerous WRC rallies for Citroen) and Jari-Matti Latvala (who has done the same for Ford).
With Ford and Mini pulling support from the series, and Citroen's Sebastien Loeb finally retiring after dominating the series for over a decade, the Volkswagen team looks poised to take a real bite out of the rally scene next year. The 2013 World Rally Championship kicks off in Monaco in January, then heads to Sweden, Mexico, Portugal, Argentina, Greece, Italy, Finland, Germany, Australia, France, Spain and Wales (Great Britain), finishing off a thirteen-round season next November. Alongside Volkswagen, Hyundai will be joining the fight next season with the new i20 WRC.