Four-time X Games gold medalist Tanner Foust and ex-Formula 1 driver Scott Speed will drive for the brand new Volkswagen rallycross team in 2014. The manufacturer made it official with an announcement Thursday at the Chicago Auto Show, where a prototype rallycross Beetle is on display.
The drivers will start the 2014 season in Volkswagen Polo rallycross cars, but are expected to make the switch in June to a new, 560-horsepower GRC Beetle at the X Games rallycross race in Austin. Andretti Autosport confirmed last month that it will operate the new Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team, dubbed “VARX.”
"I’m thrilled to be entering the series, and especially happy about teaming with Volkswagen to form VARX,” Michael Andretti, CEO of Andretti Autosport, said in a statement released Thursday. “We are excited about our driver lineup of Tanner and Scott; I believe we have the best drivers in the series and will be a top contender.”
Foust, a three-time rallycross champion and the only driver to have competed at every American event since the racing format debuted in the U.S. in 2010, is making the switch to Volkswagen after five successful years behind the wheel of Ford Fiesta rallycross cars. He finished the 2013 season in the runner-up position in the championship, following back-to-back Global Rallycross titles.
“Ford has been a amazing partner. I think the cars and the company are great, and the racing team will absolutely be the team to beat,” he said. “With Volkswagen, there’s an opportunity for me to get into a factory backed motorsport effort from the very beginning, with a great American team, and to play a critical role in building VARX from scratch -- that’s too exciting to pass up.”
Foust began his rallycross career in Europe before rallycross even arrived in the United States, contesting select events with the Swedish-based OMSE-Ford team in 2010, with the intention of polishing his skills for a short-course rally style event held at X Games – a precursor to what has become the U.S. version of rallycross. He soon became the first American to win a European Rallycross Championship event and has scored multiple wins in Europe and the United States. In 2014, he plans to run the full GRC schedule, as well as select contests in the new Europe-based FIA World Rallycross Championship.
“The level of preparation that Volkswagen Motorsport and Andretti Autosport bring to rallycross can’t be overstated. Volkswagen conquered the World Rally Championship on their first attempt and joining them for rallycross is an amazing opportunity,” said Foust.
Speed, who drove Formula 1 for Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2006 and 2007 and competed in NASCAR between 2008 and 2013, was an immediate success in rallycross. He won his debut in Brazil at the season opener last year, driving a Ford Fiesta as part of the OMSE2 effort. He repeated victory in September at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The new team will make its first appearance in May at the just-announced season opener in Barbados.
On Wednesday, sport organizers announced the full schedule for the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross season. The fourth full season of GRC competition features 10 rounds, including new stops in Washington, DC, New York, and Daytona, Florida.
The specific venues have yet to be revealed but it is promised that, with the notable exceptions of the opening stop in Barbados, where the rallycross contest will take place as part of the Top Gear Festival, and Austin a month later -- where rallycross will return to X Games -- the events will be largely stand-alone, running on purpose-built courses constructed in a variety of environments close to major city centers.
Volkswagen is the latest manufacturer to announce its intention to field an official team in the sport. The 2013 season saw factory backed efforts from all of Detroit’s Big Three, plus Subaru, and top-level entries from Mini and Volkswagen. Marklund Motorsport, a privateer team, brought Volkswagen to the series for a partial 2013 season, with a pair of Polos featuring a rotating roster of drivers that included two-time World Rally champion Carlos Sainz and two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom. The 2013 GRC champion, Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen, announced late last month that he will switch focus from the U.S. to the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2014, which he will contest from behind the wheel of a Marklund Motorsport Volkswagen.
2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross dates:
- May 17-18 Barbados
- June 7 Austin, TX
- June 21-22 Washington, DC
- July 19-20 New York, NY
- July 25-26 Charlotte, NC
- Aug. 2-3 Detroit, MI
- Aug. 22-23 Daytona, FL
- Sept. 19-20 Los Angeles, CA
- Sept. 26-27 Seattle, WA
- Nov. 5 Las Vegas, NV