Volkswagen has signalled its intention to challenge for the World Rally Championship title when it joins the field in 2013 after confirming the signing of former Citroen driver Sebastien Ogier as the first part of its WRC line-up.
The Frenchman finished third in the standings this season before the announcement that he was to leave Citroen ahead of the end of his contract, and would be replaced by Mikko Hirvonen.
Speculation had suggested that Ogier would move over to Ford as Hirvonen's replacement but the 27-year-old has instead agreed a deal to spearhead VW's assault on the WRC.
Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia will now help to develop the Polo WRC ahead of its competitive debut in the 2013 season.
“Volkswagen is the number one in Europe and will soon be number one in the world,” Ogier said. “I'm sure that they're going to compete with the goal of clinching the WRC title, and I'm happy to be part of this from the outset.”
VW motorsport director Kris Nissen meanwhile was thrilled to sign one of the top drivers in the series to lead his team's challenge.
“We are proud that such a successful and quick duo as Sebastian Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia have decided to join Volkswagen,” he said. “The aim of putting a competitive Polo R WRC on the road for them as quickly as possible will additionally drive our team. We look forward to working with them and are hoping for many victories and titles in the future.”
Ogier's deal with VW is effective immediately, with his first official role as a Volkswagen driver being his appearance in the end of season Race of Champions event.
Sainz called for Ogier signing
Double world champion Carlos Sainz was instrumental in Volkswagen signing Sebastien Ogier to head its WRC bid from 2013, it has emerged.
Sainz, who won the Dakar Rally for Volkswagen in 2010, works as an expert adviser for the company, while his son, Carlitos, relies on Volkswagen power for his Formula Three campaign.
“For me, Sebastien is one of the world’s three best drivers,” said Sainz, who won the World Rally Championship in 1990 and 1992 driving for Toyota.
Sainz and Volkswagen Motorsport boss Kris Nissen have always highlighted the need to sign a proven winner for their nascent team and with seven victories at world level under his belt - including five this season - Ogier certainly matches that criteria.
However, he wasn’t the only driver under consideration, largely because he was thought to be off limits due to his long-term deal with Citroen, which was terminated last week.
Having failed in its bid to lure Sebastien Loeb away from Citroen in the summer, Finns Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, plus Citroen privateer Petter Solberg were all linked to Volkswagen, which has also assessed several young talents including Kevin Abbring, Andreas Mikkelsen, Christian Riedemann and Hans Weijs by giving them runs in its fleet of Skoda Fabia Super 2000s.