Rip 2017 polo r wrc: THE SIX GREATEST RACING CARS THAT NEVER WERE
In honour of Volkswagen's exit from the WRC and the fact we'll never see the factory-backed 2017 Polo WRC in action, here's six similar stillbirths.
The 2016 Rally Australia has now come to a close, and with that Volkswagen has officially left the WRC after no fewer than four years of utter domination.
With victory for Andreas Mikkelsen and champ Sebastien Ogier having already sealed his fourth consecutive drivers’ title the team at least ended on a high, but VW’s departure from rallying will still be sad news to many, not least to those of us keen to witness the full potential of Volkswagen’s 2017 car.
For the past four years, the Polo R WRC has been the car to beat, and it was widely expected that its new car, revised and upgraded to fit with next year’s rule change, would have been even better. Kris Meeke summed it up best when he said that one of the greatest disappointments is that: “Nobody will get the chance to measure themselves against that car.”
At least the fact that Volkswagen is open to offering the car to privateers is some consolation, but it still won’t be the same. In honour of the 2017 Polo R WRC, here’s a list of some of the other greatest racing cars that never made it off the starting line.
In the late 1980s, the FIA put forward a proposal to change Formula One’s regulations, one that would see F1 cars use V8 engines. Enzo Ferrari, being Enzo Ferrari, wanted to use V12s and threatened to pull Ferrari from the championship if the new rules were implemented.
As a demonstration of how serious his threat was, Ferrari even went so far as designing a new car for use in the American CART championship, the Ferrari 637. Wily Ferrari’s gamble paid off. The FIA gave in and the 637 became nothing more than a pawn in Enzo’s game of political chess.
Proton Putra WRC
By 1997, the FIA had switched from Group A cars to the current World Rally Car specifications, which allowed manufacturers to make purpose-built rally cars free from homologation rules. As a result, it became a lot cheaper for car companies to do so, and many newcomers now wanted in.
One such newcomer was Proton, which approached Prodrive (famed for its work building Subaru’s rally cars) for help. Prodrive built two WRC versions of the Proton Putra coupe, which looked really rather similar to the current Impreza WRC.
For reasons largely unknown, but likely to be either financial or a decision by Prodrive not to cause infights between its own cars, Proton made a rapid an unexpected about-face and the Putra WRC was permanently put on ice.
Ferrari 288 GTO Evoluzione
Not many people realise that the iconic Ferrari F40 was actually a by-product of a plan by Ferrari to enter Group B rally cars. Enzo and co., ever keen to dominate new forms of motorsport, began developing a Group B version of the 288 GTO.
Unfortunately for Ferrari, at this time Group B was already in hot water for being deemed too dangerous and was banned outright following Lancia driver Henri Toivonen’s death on the 1986 Tour de Corse rally.
The 288 Evo, as it was known, almost overnight became obsolete and never got a chance to compete in rally. But like a phoenix from the ashes, the technology developed for it would give rise to the F40 just a year later.
Volvo C70 DTM
The C70 DTM is the unfortunate result of what happened when legendary racing car manufacturer Zakspeed put the proverbial cart before the horse and built a Volvo prototype to enter Germany’s DTM touring car series.
Zakspeed wanted Volvo to compete against the likes of BMW and Mercedes, and so it thought that by impressing the Swedes with a neat yellow touring car it would inspire the manufacturer to join in the fun.
There was just one problem: Volvo wasn’t interested. At all. Without manufacturer backing Zakspeed couldn’t afford to run the car and ended up cancelling the program altogether, but not before entering their single prototype into a few low-key races just for sh*ts and giggles.
Toyota MR2 WRC
Toyota’s best known in motorsport for its domination of the WRC in the early 90s, first with the Celica WRC and the later Corolla WRC, as well as for its much-publicised whoopsie with turbocharger restrictors.
But several years before that, Toyota was one of several manufacturers who wanted to get in on the Group B game thanks to the sheer marketing potential flame-spitting 600bhp mega-machines will get you.
As a result, it developed a Group B version of its mid-engined MR2 sports car, which majorly bucked the trend at the time given it had rear-wheel drive when everything else had AWD. It could have been amazing, but like Ferrari’s efforts the MR2 WRC was another victim of Group B’s axing.
Colin McRae will be remember for many things with his theatrical flat-out driving style and historic rally wins among the top ones, but in his later years he also began developing a new type of rally car.
Unveiled in 2005 and called the McRae R4, it was to be cheaper and easier to buy and run than conventional rally cars, therefore allowing up-and-comers better access to top-level rallying.
Unfortunately, McRae’s tragic death alongside his young son Johnny and two family friend in 2007 put a permanent end to its development. The car ran at several events and exhibitions but to this day remains unfinished and with its potential forever unrealised.