A week before the WRC 2016 season begins in Monte Carlo from January 21-24, Volkswagen has joined its competitors to unveil minor updates to the Polo R WRC before having to replace it due to a raft of new requirements for WRC 2017.

Not resting on the assurance of winning 34 of its 39 WRC appearances, WRC’s most successful rally car ever has refreshed front-end styling for 2016 but the real work has occurred under the skin. Engineers have modified the car’s engine and chassis to increase reliability, perhaps instigated after VW finished without a podium at Argentina last year, and the resulting testing at Portugal the following month ended with Latvala’s engine failing – Video Here.

Specifically, the only current German WRC manufacturer has strengthened the front subframe and rear-axle wishbones for greater control on gravel. The engine has seen less modification than Hyundai this year but more than the M-Sport Ford, with only the piston being modified very slightly to increase reliability. It’s unclear how this works exactly but perhaps an altered design will reduce pinging at high revs and reduce stress on longer stages.

Assuming number one VW driver Sebastian Ogier continues his form from last year, it might be another very successful year for the Frenchman and manufacturer, although continued development from Hyundai and a strong outfit from M–Sport for this year might create a tighter battle for the manufacturer’s championship when the rally finishes 2016 in Australia.

2015-Polo-R-WRC

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Sometimes known to whisper to gravel, Alex crafted his early childhood driving skills in an old 260z on the back roads of country Australia. Having spent over a decade as an automotive photographer and freelance journalist he combines his wisdom to produce the unique content that is Trailing Throttle. t: @alexsrae