As several manufacturers announce their decision to return to the World Touring Car Championship, Volvo management has opted instead to his the ‘eject’ button on its short-lived stint in the category.
The Swedish car maker had dabbled in occasional outings in the championship with some success since 2007, but last year it committed to its first full-time in the championship, with works outfit Polestar Racing running an ‘evaluation’ one-car operation with Robert Dahlgren at the wheel of a C30 challenger.
With a lack of mileage and budget – not to mention its raspy normally-aspirated engine being down on power – it initially struggled to make an impression, but a switch to the Polestar-developed turbo engine saw an immediate improvement in speed.
Despite having never driven on any of the circuits on the calendar, Dahlgren was a regular threat to Chevrolet’s frontrunning pace, and towards the end of the season he saw a realistic shot for a maiden podium result.
But a heavy crash in qualifying for the season-ending round at Macau saw the likeable Swede out with a broken thumb, and rumours quickly began to emerge that Volvo was getting cold feed on its ongoing participation in the championship.
Those rumours grew louder when the carmaker announced shortly afterwards that it was increasing its involvement in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship, and taking Dahlgren on a multi-year deal back to the series with it.
And despite recent announcements from SEAT, Ford, Honda and Lada that they would all make their respective returns to the championship in the next two years, Volvo has kept quiet until today’s announcement.
Volvo Motorsport boss Richard Crabb has confirmed in an exclusive interview with TouringCarTimes that the carmaker was pulling the pin on its brief WTCC flirtation.
“We are more than happy with the series as a whole. Even though it is a relatively young world championship compared to F1 and WRC, it has a very good exposure and growth, both geographically with the race calendar and with TV distribution.
“However, during the latter part of last year and based on strong push from our markets, we decided to shift our attention in Motorsport to the larger platform and the S60. This is a car we do not have developed in the S2000 regulation used in the WTCC. So in short, a very good championship, but we don’t have a car for it in 2012.”
While Crabb wouldn’t rule out the S60 being developed for WTCC competition in the future, he didn’t rule it in either, citing the fact that the S60 doesn’t compete in the same consumer market as the customer versions of the cars run in the World Touring Car Championship.
“We must decide if we still want to use the S60 regardless of the competitors on the track, or re-evaluate the S60 as our primary global race car in favour for a smaller five-door type car as the trend in WTCC is progressing at the moment.”
What Crabb’s comments do not indicate is what exactly Polestar’s position is in the entire matter.
Theoretically, the outfit could elect to continue its World Touring Car Championship foray as an independent team, although the team relies heavily on Volvo support, both in terms of funding and in technology sport.
One fears that the curtain has been brought down on the Volvo show in the WTCC, at least for now.
And what a shame that decision is.
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