Volkswagen confirms WRC exit

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Volkswagen has confirmed its withdrawal from the World Rally Championship, in a significant blow to the series.

The winners of the last four driver, co-driver and manufacturer titles with the Polo R, Volkswagen will now "focus on new technologies and customer sport".

Frank Welsch, member of the board of management responsible for technical development, said in a statement on Wednesday: "With the upcoming expansion in electrification of our vehicle range we must focus all our efforts on important future technologies.

"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."

Volkswagen's decision to pull out of the WRC leaves question marks over the future of their drivers, most notably Sebastien Ogier - the four-time reigning world champion.

Volkswagen motorsport director Sven Smeets stated: "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.

"The team has done great things. At the same time, our vision is firmly ahead, because we are aware of the great challenges facing the entire company.

"We want our realignment to contribute to the success of the Volkswagen brand. From now on, the focus is on upcoming technologies in motorsport and on our customer sports range, where we will position ourselves more broadly and attractively."

The company's statement added: "In 2017 Volkswagen will begin development of a new rally vehicle in the R5-category based on the next generation Polo and will offer the car to customers to buy from 2018 onwards."

Last week, Volkswagen's sister company Audi announced it was pulling out of the World Endurance Championship to focus on the Formula E series.