It's been a year since the 2012 Volkswagen Polo 1.4 TSI R Cup Car was introduced for the Volkswagen Polo Cup Series in India. We take this racing car for a spin on the country's best race track as the car and the new drivers prepare for the fresh season
When the 2012 Volkswagen Polo R Cup Car was revealed it was a sensation in the country. Featuring the road going VW Polo GTI’s 1.4 litre Twincharger Stratified Injection (TSI) petrol engine that is hooked to a water cooled turbocharger and a supercharger it was clear that the Volkswagen Polo R Cup Car was destined for the track. Ask anyone who has had a chance to be behind the wheel of this machine and they are bound to go on and on about the way this car performs. In fact in the 2012 season of the Polo Cup, the increase in pace amongst the driver’s was noticeable.
The 1.4 litre TSI engine in the Polo R Cup Car develops 180 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm and 250Nm of torque @ 2,000 – 4,500 rpm and is mated to a six-speed DSG gearbox giving this racing car a top speed of 220 km/h.
The Volkswagen Polo has always been a good looking car, but when you set your eyes on the Volkswagen Polo R Cup Car with its racing livery, gills on the bonnet, lower body kit, dark alloy rims and the big rear spoiler at the pit lane of the Buddh International Circuit, it looks beefier and aggressive, making it look sporty in a very alluring manner. I honestly wish some of these elements could be made available for the road going car, but that is just wishful thinking!
This being a racing car, on the inside, it is stripped of all its creature comforts and every single bit of padding inside the passenger cabin except for the front door pads and trimmed down dashboard to save weight. All the seats have been removed and two lightweight bucket seats with six-point harnesses have been fitted for the driver and front passenger. Completing the interior look are the compact OMP racing steering wheel, an electric instrument cluster mounted in front of the Polo’s analogue instrument cluster and a motorsport spec roll cage.
Climb in through the roll cage and you are greeted by a rather comfortable OMP motorsport bucket seat, of course, you then have to spend some time strapping yourself up with the six-point safety harness. There is no seat adjuster as the seats are usually fitted according to the exact position specified by the driver. I guess the car that I was driving was set up for a driver my size as I fit in there perfectly.
All familiarities with the Volkswagen Polo are put to an end from the moment you turn the ignition key and are greeted by a sudden rumble as the TSI motor fires up. The engine sounds alive and even the slightest tap on the throttle produces an audible exhaust note that makes your hair stand on end. A little voice in your head does let you know that this is a serious ‘built-for-a-purpose’ machine and not just some nip and tuck job to look fast.
Slot the automatic gearbox into D, release the brake pedal and the Polo R Cup Car glides forward with perfect ease. Prod the accelerator pedal and the Cup Car surges ahead with all the immediacy of a naturally aspirated motor. There is also an S mode that shifts gears automatically, keeps the rpm in the mid range while slowing down and hold onto a gear right to the redline. I chose to put it in D and enjoy the fast shifting DSG gearbox for myself.
Taking it easy inside the pit lane, I made an early upshift to second via the paddle shifter behind the steering wheel. The shift was fairly immediate and as I exit the pit lane I was already in third. But the moment I went pedal to the metal, the 2012 Volkswagen Polo R Cup Car immediately surged forward; there was no lag, no lethargy, just an immediate response thanks to the wide torque band.
Acceleration is rather brisk and when the power begins to tail off and my ears indicate time for a gear change, a tug at the paddle is enough to bring back the addictive acceleration of the Volkswagen Polo R Cup Car. The Polo racing car just seamlessly surges forward all the way from standstill to 180 km/h without breaking a sweat. Past the 180 km/h mark the power does not tail off as such but you do wish for a little bit more grunt to counter the forces of nature at the fast end of the speedo. That being said, the Volkswagen Polo R Cup Car can easily touch the 200 km/h mark before having to switch to the brake pedal on the main straight at the BIC for the upcoming right hander.
Hit the brakes and the large disc brakes up front and smaller ones at the rear provide strong stopping power, push it a bit further and the ABS comes into play producing a bit of a judder and light pulsating pedal feel of the anti-lock brakes under operation at the limit.
Around the corners the Polo race car holds the line nicely with the 17 inch rims shod with JK Tyre racing slicks generating enough traction while the adjustable suspension having been setup to negate any sort of body roll. As you may imagine, this could mean a stiff and bumpy ride that cannot be experienced on the smooth tarmac of the BIC. Curiosity led me to drive over some of the ridged kerb and to my surprise the Polo R Cup Car’s suspension ironed out the bumps leaving the ride completely comfortable.
Carry some serious speeds around corners and the Polo’s tyres scream as they fight for grip, the traction control works to prevent a slide while the limited slip differential between the front wheels negates a fair bit of understeer. Not to forget, the aerodynamic package also plays its role in offering you the added downforce to keep your rear in check. However, the characteristics of a front-wheel drive car do show at the limit and some quick steering alterations are required to make it out of a corner, something that is a fairly easy task on the wide tarmac of the BIC.
As you exit a corner, pull the left paddle twice to downshift to fourth and raise the revs before stepping on the accelerator once again at the exit of a corner and the Polo R Cup Car darts out of corners with accurate immediacy. Personally, I felt that the only downside were the paddle shifters that could have been a bit bigger as you do have to reach for them.
A couple of laps around the BIC were enough to realise that what Volkswagen has built here is an extremely fast, safe, comfortable and capable driver friendly racing car that is the perfect automobile for budding racing drivers.
A single lap is enough to make you feel comfortable in the well sorted dynamics of the Volkswagen Polo R Cup Car and as the laps pile on it inspires the right amount of confidence in the driver to push a little bit more and better those racing lines ever so slightly till you get it spot on.
As for me I, was getting a bit carried away by the fantastic drive dynamics of the 2012 Volkswagen Polo R Cup Car and seriously started to re-evaluate my role as a journalist! Maybe next year I ought to compete in the Polo R Cup…with the blessings of my boss of course! Regardless, I was knocked back to reality after five laps as I had to give up my driving seat for another journalist to enjoy the sheer dynamism of this car (I could have jumped him, but that would have been unethical!). Well, it’s back to the pits for me as I figure out how to get another chance to drive in this car.