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Sven Smeets named Volkswagen Motorsport Director

August 29, 2016

Wolfsburg (29. August 2016).

Sven Smeets

Volkswagen Motorsport has undergone a restructuring at management level: Sven Smeets (44) will take over as Volkswagen Motorsport Director on 01 September 2016. He succeeds Jost Capito (57), who is leaving the company to pursue a new professional challenge. Lukasz Urban (34) also takes over as Commercial Managing Director from Kirsten Zimmermann (44), who moves into a new management role at Volkswagen AG on 01 September 2016. At the same time, François-Xavier Demaison (47) as Technical Director and Dr. Donatus Wichelhaus (54) as Director of Engine Development move up into the Management Board of Volkswagen Motorsport.


As Volkswagen Motorsport Director, Sven Smeets is responsible for all of the brand’s motorsport activities, including the top-tier involvement in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). The Belgian has been with Volkswagen Motorsport since 2012. He joined the team as Team Manager in the World Rally Championship and took on the role of Sporting Director in the middle of 2016. François-Xavier Demaison also joined Volkswagen in 2012, since when he has been responsible for the technical development of the Polo for the World Rally Championship. As Technical Director since 01 June 2016, he is now also responsible for all Volkswagen’s other car projects within the field of motorsport. Dr. Donatus Wichelhaus has been a member of the management team since 2005. He took over as Director of Engine Development on 01 June, meaning he is now responsible for the development of all Volkswagen engines for motorsport purposes. Andre Dietzel (41, Head of Communications and Marketing), Matthias Meyer (47, Manager of Workshop) and Eduard Weidl (51, Head of Customer Sports) continue in their roles within the Volkswagen Motorsport management team.

Dr. Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand with responsibility for “Development”: “We are delighted to be able to introduce a man with a vast wealth of management experience at the top of Volkswagen Motorsport, in the form of Sven Smeets. We are confident that we will be able to continue our success story in the World Rally Championship and the strategic development of our motorsport projects with Sven and the rest of the management team at the helm. At the same time, we would like to thank Jost Capito, under whose leadership Volkswagen has won every title on offer in the World Rally Championship for the past three years. We wish him all the best for the future.”


Hyundai Motorsport signed a two-year extension with Dani Sordo

August 22, 2016

Just one day after scoring his first podium of 2016, we’re delighted to announce that Dani Sordo has signed a two-year extension to his current contract with our team.

2016 Rallye Deutschland Dani Sordo Hyundai

It means that our Spanish star will remain with the team until the end of 2018 – great news, we’re sure you’ll agree!

Happy Memories

Along with his co-driver Marc Marti, Dani has played a vital role in establishing our team in the competitive world of WRC since our first rally back at Monte-Carlo 2014. We’ve shared some truly unforgettable moments since then.

Who could forget our historic 1-2 result in Germany two years ago? There was also that hard-fought podium in his home event in Spain last year. They have regularly been among the quickest WRC crews this season with four consecutive fourth-placed finishes and that impressive podium in Germany.

“Dani has been an essential member of our team since we joined WRC back in 2014,” says our Team Principal Michel Nandan. “He is motivated and consistent, and helps us to improve on and off rallies. We can now look forward to even more positive progress in the future.”

Dani is also excited at what the future will hold with new regulations coming into effect for next season.

“This team has become like a family to me,” he says. “I have had the pleasure of helping this young team grow into real contenders in just a few years. My aim is to fight for WRC wins and podiums on a regular basis. I know that is a realistic goal.”

Dani is not waiting until next season for his next big result, though. With Tour de Corse next up on the 2016 calendar – and his home rally in Spain two weeks later – he is definitely looking to continue his strong form.

“We’ve had our most successful season to date in 2016,” he adds, “but I know there is so much more to come in the final rallies of the year.”


LIVE! Rallye Deutschland (August 19/21)

August 19, 2016

WRC 2016 Round 9 – Rallye Deutschland

Q & A: Stéphane Lefebvre

August 17, 2016

For Stéphane Lefebvre, the ADAC Rallye Deutschland is synonymous with good memories. After winning the FIA Junior WRC title (2014) and securing a top 10 finish at his very first rally in a WRC (2015), the Frenchman was absolutely determined to take part in this year’s event. Thanks to the support of his partners, he is therefore competing – with co-driver Gabin Moreau – in a DS 3 WRC run by the PH Sport team.

2016 WRC Rallye Deutschland Stéphane Lefebvre

Why did you choose to contest the ADAC Rallye Deutschland?

“This is one of my favourite rallies. Ever since it was added to the World Championship calendar, I have been coming each year as a spectator. Last year, it was my first rally in a World Rally Car. I wanted to have another go here to confirm and show the progress I have made…”
How did this appearance come together?

“As soon as I knew that the Abu Dhabi Total WRT’s programme would not include Germany, I started trying to put the necessary budget together. I managed to get the partners that supported me during my JWRC campaign on board, along with a few good friends who got into the idea. Bernard Piallat and the entire PH Sport team also came up with some solutions in order to make it happen. In the end, it was something of a team effort!”

What does Citroën Racing think about this initiative?

“Yves Matton said to me it was a good idea, that it was always good to acquire more experience. But he also warned me that I had to at least match my previous performances with the DS 3 WRC! And that’s exactly what I intend to do…”

Let’s go back twelve months – what memories do you have from the 2015 Rallye Deutschland?

“It was a dream weekend! I switched from the R5 and the RRC to driving the WRC, which is what I had always dreamed of doing. On the opening stage, I set the ninth fastest time, which was a pretty good start. My times were very close to those of Mads Østberg, who was driving the same car. I was also pleased to set the second fastest time on the short Arena Panzerplatte stage. My race was not without a few minor mistakes, but it was really pleasing to make it to the end, with the added bonus of finishing in the points.”

The German course is renowned for its variety. How would you describe it?

“The roads don’t look like those you find in northern France, and yet it feels like there is a certain familiarity, especially in terms of grip. The most difficult point remains the Baumholder military base. If you want to improve on a stage like Panzerplatte, there is only one solution: drive!”

How have you prepared for this rally?

“Almost every day, I have been watching onboard camera footage from previous years. I know all the stages, including those I have yet to contest! On Monday, I’ll get back behind the wheel of the tarmac version of the DS 3 WRC for a day of testing. The aim is to really get back up to speed on this surface. For the race, I have no concerns at all about the set-up. The team has full access to Citroën Racing’s knowledge base…”

What sort of result are you aiming for?

“It’s never easy to make predictions, because the standings can also be affected by racing incidents. After finishing fifth in Monte-Carlo, I would like to do at least as well here. Obviously, I’d love to finish on the podium, but I’d be very pleased if I end up fourth or fifth.”


WRC – Rally China 2016 cancelled

August 16, 2016

The FIA and WRC Promoter have received a formal request to cancel next month’s Rally China (8 – 11 September), round 10 of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship.

Following an evaluation of this request, it has subsequently been accepted and the rally has been removed from the 2016 calendar.

The rally will not be replaced in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship, which will now comprise 13 rounds.


WRC – The 2017 World Rally Car – a design statement

August 15, 2016

Francois-Xavier Demaison, Technical Director at Volkswagen Motorsport, explains some of the new regulations and the challenge of designing a car for a Championship that sees contenders compete on snow, ice, gravel and tarmac in all four corners of the globe…

The 2017 Technical Regulations for the new World Rally Cars are all about the look and power, and the freedom afforded with the bodywork and rear wing, in particular, is set to produce striking and potentially very different machinery from each of the manufacturers committed to the FIA World Rally Championship.

Next year’s World Rally Car can be 60mm longer at the front with a greater overhang of 30mm at the rear, larger front and rear bumpers are permitted as well as a front splitter and rear diffuser. Potentially the width can be increased by 55mm, thanks in part to extended door sills which – aside from the visual impact – also house additional side impact safety protection measures. The front and rear fenders can now be extended around the entire wheel arch and the fixed rear wing can be dramatically increased in size, potentially sitting 50mm higher than the roof.

Francois-Xavier Demaison, Technical Director at Volkswagen Motorsport, explains some of the new regulations and the challenge of designing a car for a Championship that sees contenders compete on snow, ice, gravel and tarmac in all four corners of the globe.

As engineers, how does it feel to be given a blank sheet of paper with regard to engineering an all-new car?

Francois-Xavier Demaison:
“For sure a white sheet of paper is always nice for engineers and we like to have new rules or a new project, because with more freedom it’s always interesting. But it’s always risky because today we have a very competitive car, but maybe with the new rules we can do mistakes, the others will catch up and we will not have the best car, even if we do everything we can to achieve this.”

What are the changes to the bodywork and aerodynamics of the 2017 WRC cars?

Francois-Xavier Demaison:
“We have wider cars, we have more and bigger aero devices like the rear spoiler, rear wing, rear diffuser and front splitter. We also have a bigger door sill and there is much more freedom in the fender design so they can have an aero effect. So in terms of bodywork, these are the main changes for next year.”

What can these changes bring to the cars for 2017, and to the Championship?

Francois-Xavier Demaison:
“Everyone hopes that the new rules will bring more people to rallies, more interest for the press and TV because the cars should be more spectacular. That’s the main goal from the FIA and the manufacturers.”

How does Volkswagen balance the intention to turn these new generation cars into spectacular hero cars, while making sure that it is still recognisable as a Volkswagen Polo?

Francois-Xavier Demaison:
“It is very important for Volkswagen that we recognise the Polo, it’s the Polo we need to promote. We have a close relationship with our design department in Wolfsburg and every design we make in terms of aero is submitted to them to make sure it’s acceptable. It’s a Polo, we are marketing people and in the end we need to show and sell Polos.”

Can this potentially mean compromise in some areas?

Francois-Xavier Demaison:
“There’s no doubt. Motor sport is always a compromise and this starts when you have to design a car which is able to do 14 different rallies, so we are always working on compromises. But for this particular aspect of bodywork design, aero is a balance between the best performance, the most reliable bodywork and the best-looking design for our colleagues in Wolfsburg.”

The rear wing and bodywork will obviously make a dramatic visual statement, but what will it mean in regard to performance?

Francois-Xavier Demaison:
“The big rear wing will first bring more drag, there’s no doubt; it will be a draggy rear wing so it will make the car slower in some respect but faster in corners.”

How do you balance the downforce and drag?

Francois-Xavier Demaison:
“This is the most complicated compromise to find between drag and downforce. Efficiency is a key factor and we have to find the right balance and all the simulations we do, and the testing, are based on this. We all have our own ideas and we will see who found the best compromise next year on the rallies, but beforehand it’s really difficult to be sure who gets the best result.”

The WRC is looking very healthy for 2017 with five manufacturers and more rallies wanting inclusion on the calendar than there are dates. How important is it for Volkswagen to be able to unveil an exciting, all-new car at this time?

Francois-Xavier Demaison:
“It is a very important new season for Volkswagen. Toyota is joining, Hyundai is very strong now, Citroën is re-joining and Ford is still here, so that will be a very, very tough championship with major car manufacturers. Volkswagen wants to win and beat all these manufacturers and show that the Volkswagen Polo is the best car in the WRC.”


2017 MSA British Rally Championship calendar announced

August 10, 2016

The MSA British Rally Championship today (10 August) confirmed its proposed calendar for the 2017 season. Building on the extraordinary success of its first season back, next year’s BRC will further underline its standing as the premier domestic rally championship in the world.

With seven rounds in six territories, the 2017 BRC will traverse the United Kingdom with two rounds in Wales and one each in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland – all of which featured on this year’s calendar. The season will again conclude with a double points rally on the Isle of Man, but the long Manx event will be split into two legs, with equal points awarded for each. In keeping with the BRC’s international pedigree, the championship will reach overseas audiences with a visit to the legendary Ypres Rally in June for the demanding asphalt roads of northern Belgium.

The BRC returned to action this year with a new format based around FIA homologated cars. No fewer than 23 R5 and S2000 vehicles registered for the series, as well as 16 Juniors in R2 machinery – making the British championship the sternest possible test for both aspiring young drivers and would-be WRC stars of the future. This year’s BRC champions will have earned their place in the history books alongside names such as Vatanen, Burns, McRae, Mikkola and Blomqvist.

As well as confirming the 2017 calendar, organisers have also revealed a change to the points system for next year. Points will be awarded after each event in line with the FIA’s current regulations – 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 – with the best seven scores from eight point scoring possibilities to count in the final reconciliation.

The BRC Joker that was introduced this year will remain in place, but will be worth fewer points. If a driver plays the joker and wins the event, they will receive an additional 5 points, if they come second they will receive 4 points, down to fifth place which will yield just one additional point.

2017 MSA British Rally Championship Calendar*

4/5 March Mid-Wales Stages, Newtown
29/30 April Pirelli Carlisle Rally, Carlisle
19/20 May RSAC Scottish Rally, Dumfries
23/24 June Ypres Rally, Ypres, Belgium
15/16 July Nicky Grist Stages, Builth Wells
18/19 August Ulster Rally, Derry/Londonderry
14/16 September Rally Isle of Man, Douglas

IMS Managing Director Ben Taylor

“This has been an incredible first year for the championship. To have such a great response to the new BRC was overwhelming and I would like to thank everyone that has worked so hard to make the vision a reality. We know that we still have a lot of work to do and our aim is to build on what has been achieved so far in order to make the BRC better in every department.

“We have some exciting plans that should come to fruition in the next six months, but getting out the calendar in good time gives everyone the chance to make plans for next year.

“We were sorry to lose the Circuit, but I am absolutely delighted that we are able to add Ypres to the BRC calendar for next year. Not only is it an exciting prospect for the competitors who get to take on a legendary event, but for the BRC it demonstrates an increasingly international perspective as we strive to create the best possible series for drivers from around the world.”

BRC Championship Manager Iain Campbell

“For its first season, the BRC has been an amazing success; now we have to take it to the next level. We have all learned a huge amount in this first year, including the event organisers who have seen a pace at the front of the field that they have not had to contend with before.

“Having listened to the competitors, teams, events and sponsors, we have a clear understanding of what has worked well this year, but also the increasing expectations and requirements as the championship progresses.

“With the exception of the Circuit of Ireland which will not run next year, all the other events that supported the championship in its first year have been retained. Each of them represents a unique challenge and all have their own characteristics, so we will be looking to build on that and work with them next year to make them even stronger.”

Keep tabs on all the latest BRC developments by visiting or following us on social media: MSA British Rally Championship on Facebook and @MSA_BRC on Twitter using #BRC

*Calendar subject to approval by the MSA



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