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06 March 2024 ~ 0 Comments

Astron Energy named as title sponsor of the 2024 Volkswagen Polo Cup

A springboard for young racing driver talent in South Africa, the Volkswagen Polo Cup has a new sponsor for 2024. Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa is partnering with Astron Energy who becomes the title sponsor for the upcoming season. The 2024 Astron Energy Polo Cup runs as part of the South African National Championship Extreme Festival over seven rounds across the country, and marks the one-make racing series’ 28th year of competition.

Excellent platform
With a network of 850 service stations being rebranded over the next four years, Astron Energy is a leading supplier of petroleum products in South Africa. The field of Polo GTI and Polo GTC SupaCup racing cars will use the company’s Quartech fuel, which has claimed friction reduction properties to help deliver improved protection against damage from combustion. Astron Energy sees the young racing drivers’ championship as an excellent platform to promote its reimagined fuel brand.

‘We are delighted to confirm our partnership with Volkswagen Motorsport as the title sponsor for the 2024 Astron Energy Polo Cup,’ said Astron Energy head of marketing, Thayuri Moodley. ‘The MSA South African National Championship Polo Cup has discovered some of South Africa’s most exciting racing talents over the years, with past champions Sheldon and Kelvin van der Linde, Jordan Pepper, and Leyton Fourie among others, going on to great things in local and international motorsport. Astron Energy looks forward to being an integral part of the next chapter of the thrilling Polo Cup story,’ continues Moodley.

‘Great impetus’
‘As Volkswagen Motorsport, we are delighted to welcome Astron Energy aboard as our Polo Cup title sponsor from 2024,’ said Head of Volkswagen Driving Experience, Mike Rowe. ‘Not only will Astron Energy bring great impetus to the Volkswagen Polo Cup, but we look forward to proving Astron Energy’s new premium additive Quartech Petrol in our field of Polo GTI Cup racing cars in action on track,’ Rowe continues.

The series gets underway on 15 March at Killarney in Cape Town, and the winner of the 2024 Astron Energy Polo Cup champion will earn a drive in a Polo GTC SupaCup racer in the 2025 GTC SupaCup championship.

Alongside the series production-based Polo GTI Cup racers, the Polo GTC SupaCup competes in the exclusive-to-South Africa GTC (Global Touring Car) Championship in the SupaCup class. Devoted to more production-biased machines, as opposed to the ‘silhouette’-type racers of the top-level GTC class – in which Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa fields a Golf 8 GTI GTC – the Polo GTC SupaCup still has almost 300bhp, and wears a square-arched body kit, echoing that of the Polo GTI R5 rally car.

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07 September 2023 ~ 0 Comments

Smiles per gallon: Stewart Sims’ 1990 Volkswagen Polo Fox

Once commonplace on Britain’s roads, the boxy – and very popular – Mk 2 Polo provided tough, well-made, but few-frills transport for many drivers. Four decades later, it is carving out a niche as a starter classic. Perhaps not the obvious choice after a string of more traditional classics, car enthusiast Stewart Sims is glad he hunted down his Polo Fox

When the Volkswagen Polo was launched in 1975, it quickly set the template for small cars with its nicely proportioned style, high quality build, sweet-revving engines and nimble handling. The second-generation car which arrived in 1981 continued that trend – unsurprising perhaps as it was based on the mechanical bones of its feted predecessor – but with one big difference. The silhouette now resembled a small estate car, rather than sharing the slope-tailed outline of the first generation car. This made it distinctive, though, and throughout the 1980s and 1990s Mk 2 ‘breadvan’ Polos were easy to spot.

Fast forward to the 2020s, and 40 years after its introduction, the second-generation VW Polo is now much harder to find. Usually driven by ‘older’ folks in-period, younger drivers now take a shine to the car, lured by its simple mechanical nature, and no-nonsense, no-frills make-up and specification. Stewart Sims is one such owner. He purchased the 1990 Polo Fox seen here in May 2021 from UK Volkswagen specialist UKD Auto in Bristol. Previously owning cars such as a Rover 220 Coupé, the Polo seems an odd choice.

Distinctive and characterful
“I wasn’t specifically looking for a Polo,” Stewart says. “Having owned a string of classics from the 1970s up to 1999, I felt drawn towards older, simpler cars again. In fact, I am more in my comfort zone with British cars and was actually considering a Mini,” he continues. So why did the Polo appeal? “The Mk 2 Polo is just such a clean design, and this car is an incredibly clean example, too,” Stewart says. “I’ve always liked Mk 2 Golfs, but the ‘breadvan’ shape of this Polo in my view makes it even more distinctive and characterful. It also helps that it’s small so it can fit in a garage yet it has a big hatchback boot that can easily swallow some comfy chairs for car shows or picnics,” he explains.

It’s worth pointing out that the Fox was more ‘characterful’ than most other Mk 2 Polos. Later cars such as Stewart’s featured distinctive ‘Checkweave’ padded interior trim, white bumper and grille pinstriping, and distinctive star-shaped wheel trims, the latter items Stewart’s car lacks. First introduced as a special edition version of the Polo hatchback in 1984 aimed at younger buyers with a palette of bright colors and special ‘Fox’ decals that adorned its flanks, the model became a mainstay of the range in 1985 (the badge also appearing on the Polo Coupé) and served as the entry point in the Polo range, right up until the Mk 2 Polo’s – post-facelift – demise in 1994.

G550 DPY has had seven or eight owners over its 33-year life, but sadly Stewart has very little in the way of history. “I bought it from UKD Auto who are German classic car specialists, and I imagine they’d found it sitting in a garage for a long time and bought it to restore,” says Stewart. The car has had a full respray in Tornado Red and a mechanical overhaul, and as a result, Stewart reports that it drives very well.

The car is Stewart’s first Volkswagen, having had his eye on other Wolfsburg classic. “Not long before I bought the Polo, I was outbid on a Beetle at a car auction. I was a bit disappointed but then the Polo came along, so one way or another the universe provided my first Volkswagen!” he says. At the time of purchase, the car had covered just under 52,000 miles since 2 February 1990 when it was first registered, and the odometer now reads almost 53,500 miles. Not a ‘daily’, those extra 1,500 miles have largely been added through the journeys to and from classic car events. “We’ve been to lots of shows!” says Stewart. “The car came from near Bristol, and I live in Norfolk now. It’s seen most of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire in the time I’ve owned it.”

Stewart planned to carry out a few minor tasks to make the Polo a little more user-friendly in the 2020s, including adding a 12V socket (yes, the Fox was that basic, folks). Overall, though, Stewart’s plan was to retain the look of a car that was everywhere when he was young and now you rarely see in such original condition. Compared to the ‘fun’, and mostly sporty cars he owned before – also including an MG Midget as well as his beloved Rover 220 Coupe – Stewart says the 45bhp, 1,043cc Polo is definitely more sedate, and has half the power of any other car he has owned! “But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun,” he says. “It is now at an age where it turns heads and is also a really great car to nip about in – it just might not win a traffic light drag race!”

A broad appeal
Stewart’s little red Polo doesn’t just turn heads on the road. A regular on the local and national show circuit, the now rare small Volkswagen attracts attention wherever it goes. “A lot of people want to take photos and have a chat,” Stewart reports. “This age and era of Polo has a broad appeal to a lot of people because they were so practical and versatile. Most people of a certain age remember one being in their lives or had a friend who owned one,” he says.

“It’s such an easy classic to live with, too, because everything is simple to access and also to disassemble. It’s a very practical car as well and I think Polos will become a very popular ‘starter classic’ for a lot of people in the coming years,” Stewart enthuses. However, despite the car’s ease of tinkering with, it’s not always been plain sailing. A blowing exhaust, coolant leaks, a new coolant bottle and the speedo cable have all caused issues, but the biggest problem Stewart has experienced, is the age-old Mk 2 Polo ailment of an iced carburettor.

“This has definitely been the most problematic thing to deal with,” Stewart confirms. “The others are all things I’ve experienced and dealt with before. It was pretty scary losing power on a dual carriageway! To be fair, other Polo owners had warned me the cars are susceptible to this, but as it only shows up in certain weather conditions it’s hard to tell if you have the problem until it’s too late. Fortunately it all turned out OK and once the carb had thawed out I could continue my journey and the fix was straightforward,” he says. Stewart has documented fixing a few of these problems on his Substack pages.

Sadly, some signs of corrosion on the bodywork have forced Stewart’s hand and he is selling the car, entering it into an East Anglian Motor Auctions sale in Norwich on 9 September. “The bodywork showing signs of poor repair only a couple of years after being resprayed was a real shame. It can be sorted, but I didn’t buy the car to get into the level of work it might need to put right. It passed its last MOT with no advisories, so it’s not got to the stage where it is structurally a problem. It could easily be rescued by someone willing to put the time and money into it. No-one has even commented on it at a car show yet either,” he explains.

Practical and well-rejuvenated
As he enjoys owning it, Stewart initially planned to keep the little red Polo for a long time. “My motivation for buying a more practical and well-rejuvenated car was that I could spend a bit more time enjoying it, rather than fixing it, or waiting for the right conditions or opportunity to take it out. It has fitted very well into my lifestyle,” he says.

“I’ve enjoyed owning it very much because it is such an easy-going ownership experience: it’s easy to drive, simple to maintain and practical. The running costs and part prices are low and it’s also the sort of car that always puts a smile on people’s faces. I always intended to do what I could to keep it in good condition,” Stewart adds. The car has had its moment in the spotlight, though, attending those local shows and also the Festival of the Unexceptional, where it was snapped for inclusion in a recent issue of Classic.Retro.Modern magazine.

Very much a reluctant sale, the Polo will be replaced at some point in the future, but with life events currently taking priority, Stewart is unsure what form its successor will take. “Eventually I think the Polo will be replaced. At the moment, with a home renovation to contend with, I’m going to (try) to have a break from owning a classic for a little while,” he says. “I don’t know what I would replace it with yet. One thing I enjoy, and want to try to spend more time doing, is going out on walks with the dog in the countryside, so perhaps something a bit more rugged, and that I’m less likely to be worried about getting dirty might be an idea!” he says.

Whatever that car might be, Stewart’s little and simple Volkswagen has set the bar high. “The Polo is such a relaxing car to drive, but if you push it a bit, then it can also be really involving,” he reports. “I think a combination of everything being manual and more ‘analogue’ than modern cars, as well as a great design mean it really is a ‘driver’s car’ despite it not being sporty or fast,” he says.

Early Polos were rarely sporty or fast, but that’s just part of their charm. If you would like to own a piece of late, pre-facelift Mk 2 Polo history, be a little wily and head over to Norwich on 9 September to grab yourself a starter classic. This little red Polo needs to be kept on the road to continue to make people smile.

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10 August 2023 ~ 2 Comments

UK order books open for the Volkswagen Polo GTI Edition 25

Volkswagen is celebrating 25 years of the Polo GTI in 2023 with the limited edition Polo GTI Edition 25, and following the German on-sale date of 1 June, the UK has been confirmed as one of the markets which will get the car. The special model will only head to Europe and Japan.

UK order books for the Polo GTI Edition 25 opened on 31 July, with 350 of the 2,500 production run cars available from 3 August. Prices start at £31,295, and those lucky Polo GTI fans who secure a Polo GTI Edition 25 will get a host of features unique to this anniversary model. The Edition 25 marks the first time Volkswagen has celebrated the Polo GTI with a commemorative version, unlike the numerous anniversary models associated with the Golf GTI.

Visual tweaks
For the extra £2,390 the Polo GTI Edition 25 costs over the ‘standard’ Polo GTI, buyers gain visual tweaks and extra equipment. Outside, there are gloss-black 18-inch ‘Adelaide’ alloy wheels (the standard Polo GTI wears 17-inch ‘Parker’ rims), and unique ‘25’ and honeycomb graphics on the doors, in a style similar to those on the commemorative 2021 VW Golf GTI Clubsport 45. The roof and door mirror caps are also painted gloss black. An additional unique feature of the Polo GTI Edition 25 is the addition of Ascot Grey to the usual GTI colour palette.

Inside, the sports seats are trimmed in perforated black and red leather, and the dashpad is finished in gloss black with red air vent surrounds. A ‘GTI’ logo sits ahead of the passenger, while a ‘25’ logo appears in the steering wheel’s lower spoke. Sill plates also state that individual examples of the Polo GTI Edition 25 examples are ‘One of 2500’ – there is no personalised number.

0-62mph in 6.5 seconds
Sadly there is also no boost in power, which has, in the past, been a feature of anniversary Golf GTI models. So power is the same at 204bhp (207PS/152kW) as the standard Polo GTI, with which the Edition 25 also shares its running gear, including ‘XDS’ electronic differential lock and 15mm lower suspension than a ‘standard’ Polo. The standard Polo GTI’s seven-speed DSG gearbox is also fitted, helping the Polo GTI Edition 25 get from 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds.

Mobile phone preparation with inductive charging, keyless locking and starting with Safelock, heated front seats and a rear-view camera are also standard, the £31,295 RRP ‘on the road’ price including VAT. The 2023 Volkswagen Polo GTI Edition 25 is available from Volkswagen Retailers with a £1,500 deposit contribution, as well as a 6.9 per cent personal contract plan from Volkswagen Financial Services.

Polo GTI history
The hot Polo story began in 1979, with the 1,272cc, 60bhp Polo GT and went on to include the supercharged 113bhp Polo G40. The first Polo GTI went on sale in 1998 as a special edition of the third-generation Polo. Only available in Germany, it enjoyed a limited production run of 3,000 units. Read our previous Polo GTI Edition 25 post for more on the quarter-century history of the Polo GTI.

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17 May 2023 ~ 2 Comments

Volkswagen celebrates Polo GTI quarter century with limited Polo GTI Edition 25

The 48-year-old Golf GTI may be Volkswagen’s most revered sporting hatchback, but the Polo GTI has been offering a similar recipe in a smaller package for just under three decades now. Volkswagen is recognising this fact with the new Polo GTI Edition 25 model announced today. On sale on 1 June, the 2023 Volkswagen Polo GTI Edition 25 will be priced from €35,205.

The first Polo GTI went on sale in 1998 as a special edition of the then third-generation Polo, enjoying a limited production run of 3,000 units and German market-only availability. The hot Polo story began in 1979, though, with the 1,272cc, 60bhp Polo GT and went on to include the now fondly remembered supercharged 113bhp Polo G40.

Host of unique features
In a similar style to the numerous Golf GTI special editions that have punctuated the hot hatch’s career, the Polo GTI Edition 25 features a host of unique features. And like that original Polo GTI, the Polo GTI Edition 25 is a limited-run model, with only 2,500 units being produced. Power is the same at 204bhp (207PS/152kW), with the same running gear as the standard Polo GTI including ‘XDS’ electronic differential lock and 15mm lower suspension than a ‘standard’ Polo.

Where the Polo GTI Edition 25 differs most to the standard Polo GTI is in both visual and kit enhancements. Externally, 18-inch ‘Adelaide’ alloy wheels finished in gloss black join the usual red-trimmed grille and red brake calipers, with the roof and door mirror caps also gaining the dark finish.

Ascot Grey paint debut
In the initial press images, a repeating honeycomb graphic similar in style to that of the 2021 Golf GTI Clubsport 45 adorns the lower part of the front doors, the rear doors featuring a ‘25’ logo. Ascot Grey is added to the Polo GTI colour palette for the first time, the Polo GTI Edition 25 also available in the standard shades of Deep Black Pearl Effect, Kings Red Metallic, Pure White, Reef Blue Metallic and Smoke Grey Metallic.

Step inside, and a ‘One of 2500’ sill plate signifies that the Polo GTI Edition 25 is something a little more special – there is no true personalised number, though. The standard ‘Jacara’/’Clark’ tartan seat trim has been junked, the sports seats trimmed in perforated black and red leather with stitched-in ‘GTI’ logos.

Black and red inserts
Upfront, the usual ‘Deep Iron Grey’ coloured dashpad has been replaced with a gloss black insert with red highlights around the air vents and door handles, as well as a red ‘GTI’ logo ahead of the passenger. The multifunction steering wheel – to which the paddleshifts for the seven-speed DSG gearbox are attached – is fitted with a ‘25’ logo in its lower spoke. A high resolution eight-inch ‘Ready2Discover’ infotainment system is standard.

Other standard innovations include Volkswagen’s IQ Light LED matrix headlights with dynamic light assist functionality and LED daytime running lights. The optional Travel Assist system forms part of the IQ Drive assist package which also includes adaptive cruise control and lane assist systems.

‘Home of the Polo GTI’
The Polo GTI Edition 25 and other sixth-generation Polo-based Polo GTIs are exclusively built at Volkswagen South Africa’s Kariega plant. The ‘home of the Polo GTI’, the factory, opened in 1951, is situated near Port Elizabeth and is the largest car manufacturing facility on the African continent. ‘Our team in South Africa is really proud of this car’, said Martina Biene, managing director and chairperson of Volkswagen Group South Africa. ‘The Polo has a long tradition here – especially the Polo GTI.’ Volkswagen South Africa produces the Polo Vivo, the Polo and the Polo GTI.

The third-generation Polo was the first to wear Volkswagen’s iconic three letter badge. Limited to 3,000 units, the limited model sold out as fast as its 9.1-second 0-60mph time. Marked out by ‘GTI’ badges, 15-inch BBS alloy wheels, red seatbelts and unique ‘1’ interior trim, the subtle-looking model started the Polo GTI ball rolling.

1999-2001 Polo GTI
Updated in 1999 when the facelifted third-generation Polo arrived, the GTI became a permanent fixture in the Polo range. Featuring much the same recipe as before, its 1.6-litre 125bhp 16V engine with variable valve timing technology was 5bhp up on the 1998 version.

2006-2009 Polo GTI
The introduction of the refreshed fourth-generation ‘9N3’ Polo in 2006 saw the next Polo GTI arrive. With 148bhp from its 1.8-litre turbocharged engine, a special 178bhp Polo GTI Cup Edition was fitted with a unique body kit based on the Polo Cup racing cars that pounded the racetracks in Europe.

2010-2017 Polo GTI
Switching tack was the twincharged (super and turbocharged) Polo GTI of 2010. The 1.4-litre TSI engine was exclusively paired with a seven-speed DSG gearbox for a 0-62mph time of 6.9 seconds. With 17-inch ‘Monza’ wheels that aped the Golf GTI, it looked every inch the hot hatch. Sharpened up in 2014 with the arrival of the updated fifth-generation model, the 1.4 engine was swapped for a 1.8-litre turbocharged unit with 189bhp and the choice of both manual and DSG gearboxes.

2017-2023 Polo GTI
Now very firmly a mainstay of the family, the Polo GTI of the sixth-generation Polo range had 197bhp and a six-speed DSG gearbox, sprinting to 62mph from rest in 6.7 seconds. A suite of new high resolution infotainment systems and a 10.3-inch digital driver’s display were among the technological highlights. In 2021 the refreshed model debuted – still based on Volkswagen’s successful MQB platform architecture – with 204bhp and subtle styling enhancements inside and out. It is this car on which the Polo GTI Edition 25 is based.

2017 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

The Polo GTI of the sixth-generation Polo has been campaigned successfully in motorsport, both on and off the track. The car has provided a base for the Polo GTI R5 rally car, as well as the Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa Polo Cup one-make series circuit racer.

2018 Engen Volkswagen Cup Polo GTI

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01 May 2023 ~ 0 Comments

Petter Solberg reunited with Polo R WRX Supercar at 2023 Simola Hillclimb

The fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo enjoyed huge success in motorsport, not only winning the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) four consecutive times from 2013-2016, but also taking the spoils in the frenetic and punishing World Rallycross series, too.

Driven by Johan Kristoffersson and three-time FIA world champion and WRC legend Petter Solberg among others, it’s been five years since the Polo graced the top level of rallycross with Solberg behind the wheel. But on the weekend of 4-7 May, the Norwegian driver and hillclimb star will be reunited with the 570bhp Polo R WRX at the 2023 Simola Hillclimb in South Africa.

Most successful modern rallycross car
Plucked from his retirement and driving for Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa, Solberg will be piloting the fire-spitting machine which Kristoffersson drove to victory in 2017. With a pair of drivers’ titles and two team FIA World Championship wins, the Polo R WRX Supercar could just be the most successful race car of the modern rallycross era.

Developed from the Polo R WRC rally car but more of a ‘silhouette’ racer, the Polo R WRX Supercar’s standout features include engine cooling with an emphasis on aerodynamics, making it far more efficient. The rear wing of the Polo R WRX creates more downforce and allows a wide range of set-up options. Powered by a four-cylinder engine with a massive 570bhp (419kW), peak torque of 650Nm (479lb ft) is developed at 5,000rpm. Power is put down using a six-speed sequential racing gearbox, and it takes just 1.9 seconds to complete the 0-62mph sprint.

2018 PSRX Volkswagen Sweden Polo R

‘Polo R WRX Supercar from the museum’
‘The guys at Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa are so professional,’ said an excited Solberg. ‘They agreed for me to come and drive at the Simola Hillclimb event, and then agreed to bring the Polo R WRX Supercar from the museum in Wolfsburg. This is the proper way of doing things – I like it!’ he continues.

‘Can I win? Let’s see. They told me the winner’s average speed last year was 200km/h (124mph) – my car will only do 200km/h! You know me, I will try. We will push and see what is possible. One thing is certain, it’s going to be fantastic to be back with this car again. I have such good memories of the Polo R WRX Supercar. We ran these cars for me and Johan, with our family team (PSRX Volkswagen Sweden) winning all the titles through 2017 and 2018. Good times,” reflects Solberg.

2017 PSRX Volkswagen Sweden Polo GTI Supercar, World RX of Sweden: Solberg

‘We are very excited to announce that Petter Solberg will be making his way to South Africa to race in the Polo R WRX Supercar,’ said Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa. ‘Solberg’s partnership with VW goes back to 2017 when he set up PSRX Volkswagen Sweden with factory works support from Volkswagen Motorsport and we are thrilled to have brought Petter back to race for us in South Africa,’ Rowe continues.

Volkswagen Polo SupaCup
Alongside Solberg, seasoned racer Graeme Nathan will also be representing Volkswagen in a Polo SupaCup car, a 308bhp racer built specifically for South Africa’s GTC SupaCup support series. The 2.0-litre turbocharged ‘EA888’ four-cylinder engine has 420Nm of torque, and as Nathan and the SupaCup Polo came second in the Class B2 finals in one of the closest margins – 0.016 seconds – in the history of the Simola Hillclimb in 2022, he will certainly be up for the fight in 2023.

Joining Nathan’s and Solberg’s Polos will be an eighth-generation Golf R, driven by Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa drivers Jonathan Mogotsi and Daniel Rowe. Solberg’s rallycross-driving brother Henning will also compete on the 1.18-mile (1.9-kilometre) hill in Knysna, Western Cape.

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