Following its circuit racing successes in Britain, Volkswagen’s Golf R32 is to make its international rallying debut this Saturday (6 December).
The R32, prepared by Milton Keynes-based Volkswagen Racing UK, will be taking part in the Rallye Maspalomas in Gran Canaria, one of the toughest tarmac events in the world.
At the wheel of the potent Golf, with its 3.2-litre V6 engine and advanced four-wheel-drive system, will be double Castrol Polo Challenge Champion Clive Wheeler. The West Sussex-based driver will be joined in the cockpit by Ken Bartram.
Wheeler is impressed by the R32’s performance: ‘We had a very positive test with the car before it left for Gran Canaria, and it’s certainly impressively quick and stable. As to how we will go on the event, it’s very hard to say. Our plan is to take it steadily and enjoy ourselves, and hopefully a good finish should be possible.’
The Golf R32 has competed this season on circuits around the UK in the Volkswagen Racing Cup, but it has never before been tried on a rally stage.
‘The car is essentially to Group N specification,’ said Volkswagen Racing UK managing director Sam Roach, ‘and we’ve done some work to the suspension to help it handle the bumps a bit better. We think Clive should go well in Gran Canaria.’
In road trim the Golf R32 boasts 240 PS, a 0 to 62 mph time of 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 153mph.
Also taking part in the Rally de Maspalomas are three drivers from the Castrol Polo Challenge – 2002 runner-up Roger Andersson, from Sweden, this season’s runner-up, Finn Jari Laakso, and Scots stalwart Ken Robertson. All will be driving their regular 1.4-litre Polo Group N vehicles. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles director Peter Wyhinny will also be in action, piloting his crowd-pleasing Caddy TDI racer.
The Rallye de Maspalomas features 103 km of special stages over twisty and narrow passes through the Gran Canaria mountain ranges. Wheeler, Andersson and Laakso all competed last year, Jari claiming a class win and fourth overall among the Polo runners.
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