The 2012 BP Volkswagen Rally team is a sharply focused and refreshed team, ready to do battle on the country’s stages aiming at another championship title for the Volkswagen brand. With an enviable record of six consecutive national rally titles in the S2000 class, the team has set the standard for all others to follow.
Since the first championship title in 2005, there has been a huge shift in the technology used in the rally circuit and these changes are reflected in the design and construction of the new Volkswagen Polo S2000 rally car. Technology and design can only go so far, the team responsible for running the vehicles – and for competing on the stages – is a vital component for overall success.
The base for this onslaught is BP Volkswagen Rally team stalwarts Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson and Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries. The 2011 season saw Kuun and Hodgson campaign to fourth place overall with Fekken and Arries in eighth.
This quad of competitors have been a part of the BP Volkswagen rally team since before the creation of the S2000 class in South Africa and have proved themselves under the toughest conditions on numerous occasions. They have claimed four national championship titles, two each, in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Fekken and Arries claimed consecutive titles in 2008 and 2009.
Newcomers to the South African Volkswagen Rally camp are Hans Weijs Jnr and Bjorn Degandt. The pair will contest the third BP Volkswagen Polo S2000 and will regularly travel to South Africa to compete in the national championship.
“The inclusion of Hans and Bjorn in the Volkswagen rally team comes as part of the Volkswagen Group’s young driver recruitment programme,” says Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “This creates a perfect opportunity for Volkswagen Motorsport in South Africa to link in with the recruitment programme and help us to strengthen our relationship with Germany.
Weijs and Degandt are no strangers to the rally scene. The pair brings a wealth of talent and experience to the BP Volkswagen rally team and should provide a great deal of entertainment for rally fans. Weijs entered a motorsport talent search at 17 years of age back in 2004 and has since been named as one of Holland’s biggest names in rallying – in 2008 he became the first Dutch driver ever to claim a point in the WRC.
“I am delighted that our relationship with Volkswagen South Africa Motorsport has enabled us to not only exchange technical expertise but also the best of our young talent such as Hans and Bjorn,” said Kris Nissen, Director: Volkswagen Motorsport.
With a three-car line up for the 2012 season – and the new Volkswagen Polo S2000 raring to go – the rally season is set to be a welcome return to form for the team as they mount a challenge to re-claim the national title.
The Volkswagen team will not only compete in the S2000 class, there is a new category of competition available, the S2000 Challenge. Gugu Zulu and Carl Peskin will move into the new category, campaigning in the Volkswagen Polo Vivo S2000. The pair has rallied together in the A7 and S1600 classes and now makes the move into the newly-created Challenge class.
“South Africa has not focused its attention on nurturing young talent,” says Rowe. “This is something we are embarking on from this season by using our old cars and keeping them in service. This will help us to keep developing young talent and ensure they are ready for top-flight competition when the current drivers retire from national competition. The S2000 challenge is an opportunity for younger competitors to compete near the top level of the sport in South Africa, at a reduced cost which can help make rally a more attractive form of motorsport.
“Look at the current average age of the S2000 starting line-up and you will see it is older than the WRC grid,” says Rowe. “We need to fast-track youngsters in the sport to guarantee the future.
“The steps we are taking now are aimed at the future of rally, and what it will mean to South African motorsport to the coming generations of competitors.”
Outside of the S2000 Challenge class the BP Volkswagen colours will also be found on the S1600 entry of Megan Verlaque and Hilton Auffray. The BP Volkswagen Polo Vivo has been upgraded to R2 specification and now features a sequential gearbox.
Verlaque is in her second year of the Volkswagen Motorsport development programme that sees competitors identified and then nurtured for a two-season period before moving on to their own rally endeavours.
“The S2000 Challenge has been created as a platform to enable privateers to rally in a highly competitive environment and we will be helping them to run cars in this category,” says Rowe. “There is one BP Volkswagen Polo Vivo entry and two privateer cars for the class this year. These are all previous generation Volkswagen Polo Vivo S2000 rally cars – proven championship winners which are well-tested and reliable on the national rally scene.
In terms of sponsorship, the Volkswagen Motorsport rally efforts will receive the backing of numerous sponsors, three of which are major sponsors for the team. The first is the headline sponsor BP which has been with the team since the start of the S2000 category – making this the ninth year of competition with Volkswagen Motorsport.
The two other main sponsors for the team are Esteq and Castrol who will have their logos carried prominently on the BP and Volkswagen-liveried Volkswagen Polo S2000 rally cars.