Return of a legend: the Scirocco on the Nordschleifee
By participating in the 24-Hour Race at the Nurburgring, Volkswagen tackles one of the major challenges in international motorsport yet again. The endurance run twice around the clock on the legendary Nordschleife is regarded as one of the most demanding races in terms of driving and technology. This year, the crowd of well over 200,000 enthusiastic fans lining the 25.378-kilometre circuit will witness the meeting of two legends: Volkswagen returns to the Nordschleife with a racing version of the Scirocco.
Three factory-prepared cars will be fielded by Volkswagen in the classic event on 24/25 May. "The entry of the new Scirocco in what is arguably the world's toughest automobile race is an equally demanding and exciting project," says Dr Ulrich Hackenberg. The member of the Volkswagen board for technical development announces the objective set for the commitment in the "Green Hell" as well: "Our goal should be for one of the three teams to repeat the Golf GTI's 2007 class victory. That would be an excellent way to support the market launch of the production model."
A special aspect of the Volkswagen Scirocco's running: the coupe has to prove itself in its racing version in an extremely fierce motorsport competition even before its Europe-wide market launch. The production model was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show only in early March - now being followed already by the first competition on the race track. "The Nurburgring-Nordschleife and the 24-Hour Race provide an outstanding stage to present the fascination and performance capabilities of this exciting coupe in front of a big audience," says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. And he adds, "The new Scirocco with its road-going design offers an excellent base for circuit racing."
Volkswagen Scirocco celebrates comeback after more than three decades
The Scirocco is a car with a long tradition. 34 years ago, the first production model was presented, 15 years ago the production of the second model generation ceased. Starting this August, the third-generation Scirocco will be travelling on Europe's roads. For its circuit counterpart, the event held on the last weekend in May will be closing a loop as well: in 1976, the Scirocco marked the beginning of Volkswagen's successful touring car tradition. "Like its original ancestor, which - in the first Volkswagen one-make cup - started a long as well as successful tradition of our company, the new Scirocco will be making its racing debut even before its market launch. We're returning to the race track with a car that has made its mark in racing in the seventies and eighties and enthralled the fans," says Kris Nissen.
Exciting mix of drivers in the cockpits of the three Racing Sciroccos
For the Scirocco's circuit debut, Volkswagen managed to sign an interesting, high-calibre mix of drivers. The two-time Le Mans winner Hans-Joachim Stuck, who has been the Volkswagen Group's Motorsport Representative since the beginning of this year, as well as the two-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz head the line-up. In addition, the fans will witness an exceptional mix of seasoned rally and circuit racers as well as talented youngsters and journalists.
Alongside factory driver Carlos Sainz (E) the driver squad includes his team-mates Giniel de Villiers (RSA) and Dieter Depping (D) from cross-country rally racing as well as Volkswagen Junior Jimmy Johansson (S) and the seasoned touring car drivers Florian Gruber (D) and Thomas Mutsch (D). Prominent support from the Volkswagen Group is provided to them by Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Volkswagen board member for technical development. Other drivers of the Scirocco are and Francois Verbist (B) and the two journalists Bernd Ostmann (auto motor und sport) and Matthias Malmedie (Grip - das Motormagazin).
"With this fantastic line-up of drivers, we're offering the trackside spectators as well as TV audiences watching the long live coverage on DSF a real highlight," comments Kris Nissen. For Hans-Joachim Stuck, who has won the 24-Hour Race in the Eifel region three times in his career so far, the pairing of the Scirocco and the Nordschleife is a dream combination. "I'm proud to be able to take part in the Scirocco's competition debut at my age. And it's a great thing for me to contest the event alongside Carlos Sainz as a team-mate. In rally racing he is a similar shining light as Michael Schumacher is in Formula 1," says "Strietzel" Stuck.
For Carlos Sainz, who - together with his co-driver Michel Perin - just won the Central Europe Rally through Hungary and Romania in the Volkswagen Race Touareg, the competition on the Nordschleife offers a welcome change of pace, for which the Spaniard is preparing himself with eager anticipation. "I've never driven a 24-hour race before and am very much looking forward to it. I used to know the Nordschleife only from what others had told me about it, but after my test race I realise what people are talking about: this circuit is truly one of the major challenges in motorsport. To have the chance to tackle it with a brand new car like the Scirocco is a great thing," says Sainz.
Professional and intensive preparation for the "Day of Days"
Getting ready for the 24-Hour Race, Volkswagen left nothing to chance and, despite an extremely tight schedule, prepared for the classic event in its typical, professional and intensive manner. In addition to a 14-hour endurance test at the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben, which the Scirocco mastered without exhibiting even the slightest "bugs", the coupe completed its first laps on the Nurburgring Nordschleife during tests at the beginning of May - and did well straight away. "As early as on its first lap on the Nordschleife our Scirocco was in its element. The car was running like a charm even on this unique and difficult circuit," Kris Nissen summed up the test. Volkswagen factory driver Dieter Depping, as well, expressed pleasant surprise after the tests on the Nordschleife: "The Scirocco is running superbly, with good-natured handling. This is very important for us as drivers, particularly at this endurance race and with 220 cars on the track. The less you need to concentrate on your own car, the better."
Not only the vehicle but its drivers are ready for the "Day of Days". For optimum preparation for the 24-Hour Race, the Nordschleife rookies Carlos Sainz and Giniel de Villiers, together with Hans-Joachim Stuck, contested a four-hour endurance race on the Nurburgring with a Golf GTI R-Line.
"Although careful preparation is extremely important, it's only half the battle: at an endurance race lasting over 24 hours anything can happen, particularly the races on the Nurburgring-Nordschleife are legendary for their surprises," says Kris Nissen.
Flashback: in 2007 the Volkswagen Golf shone on the Nordschleife
Volkswagen has a long tradition on the Nurburgring-Nordschleife - and a successful one at that. The most recent example: in June 2007, the Golf fielded by Volkswagen Motorsport shone by clinching an impressive eighth place overall and victory in the class of two-litre turbo engine vehicles. In addition, the 300-hp Golf was the best-placed car with front wheel drive in the field of 220 racing cars. Then, as well as this year, at the wheel: Volkswagen Juniors Jimmy Johansson and Florian Gruber as well as rally ace Dieter Depping - proven drivers on whom Volkswagen relies in the 2008 running of the race as well. Merely Rene Rast is not part of the "dream team". The Volkswagen Junior will contest a Porsche Supercup race in Monaco at the same time.
In terms of technology, the victorious Volkswagen Golf served as a role model as well: the racing version of the new Scirocco is based on last year's technology and, like its predecessor, has a 325-hp two-litre TFSI engine.
Volkswagen Golf: last year's winner to run with natural gas engine
In addition to the three factory-prepared and factory-fielded Scirocco vehicles, the 24-Hour Race will be contested by a Volkswagen Golf with a natural gas engine. Its suspension, body and engine base are the same as that of the Golf GTI that clinched class victory and eighth place overall in 2007. However, unlike last year's car, the Golf GTI R-Line entered by RSG Wolfsburg is powered by natural gas, delivers 320 hp and will be driven by the seasoned racers Thomas Klenke (D), Mario Merten (D), Kai Jordan (D) and Peter Terting (D).