Volkswagen has announced that it is pulling out of the WRC. The move, which is seen as a major blow to the series, comes just days after Volkswagen's team won their fourth-straight constructors' championship.
The German carmaker announced the widely expected decision in a statement released on Wednesday shortly after Frank Welsch, the member of the Board of Management responsible for technical development, had broken the news to about 200 motorsport employees in Hanover.
"The Volkswagen brand is facing enormous challenges," Welsch said, referring to the "Dieselgate" scandal that erupted after the company was found to have manipulated its diesel engines to meet emissions standards during regulatory testing. The scandal has already cost the company billions and there is no indication that it will end anytime soon.
"With the upcoming expansion in electrification of our vehicle range we must focus all our efforts on important future technologies," Welsh explained. "We far exceeded our sporting goals in the WRC, now we are realigning Volkswagen Motorsport and moving the vehicle technology of the future more starkly into focus."
Welsch also said Volkswagen planned to focus more on customer racing as part of the realignment.
"Of course, we regret the departure from the WRC very much - as this was the most successful chapter in the Volkswagen brand's motorsport history," company motorsport director Sven Smeets said.
The decision comes just days after the Volkswagen team won their fourth consecutive world titles in the driver, co-driver and manufacturer rankings
This puts Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, who has won the last four drivers' titles, as well the other Volkswagen drivers, Jari-Matti Latvala and Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen, out of work.
This is the second major blow to hit motorsports in the past 10 days after Audi, announced last week that it was pulling out of Lemans and the endurance world championship to concentrate on Formula E.
pfd/dv (dpa, AFP)