Volkswagen Polo R WRC

EngageSportMode Awards 2015 – Part Two

The Awards for 2015 continues. No, we still don’t care that it’s now 2016, so just sit back and read which people and things caught our attention over the preceding twelve months. If you need it, you can find part one here.

2015 Awards p2

Person of the year – Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen 2015

You don’t need EngageSportMode to tell you that Formula 1 in 2015 was a pretty dire affair. Whether it was the comically tragic debacle of McLaren-Honda, the constant money worries for Lotus, or Lewis Hamilton wrapping up the title virtually unchallenged, there was little to be positive about. Apart from one young Dutchman in his debut season. Yes, Max Verstappen was by far and away our highlight of F1 in 2015.

Having a father like Jos Verstappen clearly helps, and it meant the rookie Toro Rosso driver wasn’t flung blind into the F1 arena. He topped the list of most overtakes in a season, making some quite astounding manoeuvres to pass 49 cars in total. For comparison, the driver average was just 26.8 passes. His only major mistake came at Monaco when he tangled with Romain Grosjean, but rare is the young driver who manages perfection throughout an entire season.

At ESM we hope Max manages to maintain the same momentum in 2016, as he clearly has a huge amount of raw talent. Whilst saying he is a potential championship winner might be a little too hasty, with his youth and the correct management, there’s no reason why he couldn’t do it one day. Providing the Red Bull driver programme doesn’t spit him out the other end with no seat, as has happened to others before.

(C) Ferrari Media

We also had to tip our hat to a previous winner of this award: Sebastian Vettel. Having suffered a torrid 2014 at Red Bull, the four-time World Champion joined Ferrari and instantly seemed revitalised. Taking three wins and a host of other podium finishes, he outshone teammate Kimi Räikkönen substantially, whilst also looking to be actually enjoying himself again.

Honourable mention – Sebastian Vettel

BTCC Driver of the year – Matt Neal (chosen by ESM’s BTCC Correspondent)
BTCC 2015 Snetterton

ESM’s BTCC driver of the year is, once again, not an easy decision or clear-cut. There were many stand-out drives over the season that caught the eye, but consistency was naturally the key. Drivers deserving a place on the shortlist include Josh Cook, with a staggering 22 JST wins out of 30, and Tom Ingram. Both had outright podiums of their own including a brace of seconds for Ingram. Despite their final championship standing only being 2 places apart, Ingram scored significantly more points so you would favour him as ‘young gun’ of the year, although he doesn’t claim driver of the year. (more…)

Friday Photo – 2015 Volkswagen Polo R WRC in action

By the time you read this, the 2015 Rallye Monte Carlo will already be under way, with the cars somewhere in Special Stage 5 right now. After two years of dominance, Volkswagen decided to refresh the conquering Polo R WRC with a new colour scheme. Here are the photos of it in action on shakedown for the Monte earlier this week:

2015 VW Polo R WRC 001

After two years of white, blue and silver, the change to a darker colour palette makes the Polo R WRC look even more aggressive than it already was. The Red Bull sponsorship is also a lot more obvious than before, and there’s no mistaking what Volkswagen model it is with the huge ‘Polo’ emblem in the front air intake! It’s also noticeable that Volkswagen Motorsport has dropped the prominent ‘R’ branding from the car. Perhaps they’ve become sick of people, like ESM, asking why there’s no true AWD Polo R street version being made!

Either way, it’s still a very good-looking WRC car. Can Volkswagen make it three successful years in a row? We’ll just have to see!

Friday Photo – Volkswagen Polo R WRC at 2014 Wales Rally GB

This weekend marks the final round of the 2014 World Rally Championship; one which Volkswagen has pretty much dominated proceedings throughout. What better way to celebrate than with photos of mud splattered Polo R WRCs from yesterday’s shakedown. 

Volkswagen Motorsport have dominated the year heavily; they had the Manufacturers’ championship wrapped up by Rally Australia with three rounds remaining. Prior to this weekend, the Wolfsburg make had more than twice the points of the Citroën team in second place.

It’s also been a similar story in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship, with Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia claiming those respective titles after the last round; Rally Catalunya. Their closest rivals were, naturally, their Volkswagen Motorsport team mates.

Rally Great Britain (Wales) 2014

Say what you want about the state of modern WRC, but you still cannot deny the sheer efficiency with which Volkswagen has controlled the series for the past two years. As this post goes live, the cars will be somewhere out on the Hafren Sweet Lamb stage. Ominously, the three Polos topped the time sheets in Thursday’s shakedown, so we expect them to be near the front today. It also means we’ll be awaiting more Polo R WRCs covered in mud, like those in these pictures from Volkswagen Motorsport.

Friday Photo #14 – Monte Carlo Rally 2014

A year ago Sebastien Ogier was running second to that pesky other French Sebastien; Monsieur Loeb. This year he finds himself leading into the final day of the 2014 Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo, after a strong drive to get himself back into contention. Can he hold on tomorrow to take the win?

Rally Monte Carlo 2014

Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia press on to regain the lead in Monte Carlo.

Ogier did encounter some good fortune on today’s stages, with Robert Kubica crashing out from third place and previous leader Bryan Bouffier suffering a spin in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta. This aided his recovery from ninth place overnight, after a woeful Thursday morning  showing caused by the wrong tyre choice.

Rally Monte Carlo 2014

Ogier gets sideways in Thursday’s slippery conditions.