Special exhibition in Berlin attracts more than 190,000 visitors.
“50 Years of Excitement” was a resounding success: more than 190,000 visitors flocked to the special exhibition to mark the 50th birthday of Volkswagen Motorsport. The retrospective featuring historic Volkswagen Motorsport vehicles ran from 5 September to 30 October 2016 at the “DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum” in Berlin. Its informative insights and interactive exhibits covering various aspects of the sport impressed visitors from around the world and brought the fascination of motorsport to life, making it tangible for young and old alike. Hands-on exhibits included a slot car track and a WRC simulator offering the public a chance to try and beat the time set by Volkswagen’s rally driver Sébastien Ogier.
Into the clouds armed with a cassette recorder.
“I still have the contracts at home somewhere,” he says. Back in 1977, Klaus-Joachim – “Jochi” for short – Kleint was the first rally driver to be given an official Volkswagen works contract. He went on to create some of the most memorable moments in the history of Volkswagen Motorsport. We met up with the man from Hamburg at the official opening of the “50 Years of Excitement” exhibition at the “DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum”.
It is hard to believe he is 68 years old. Kleint still loves and lives for motorsport. Among other things, he works as an instructor at the Audi Driving Experience. “You stay in training that way,” he says in a typical Hamburg dialect. Kleint is lean and looks in excellent condition. Little appears to have changed since 1987, when he started his 650-hp twin-engine Golf in Colorado at over 2,800 metres above sea level on Pikes Peak, before taking on the legendary hillclimb on one of the highest mountains in the world. His co-driver back then: a cassette recorder …
Mr Kleint, you drove one of the most dangerous routes in the world in a twin-engine Golf. Constantly dicing with the precipice whilst wrestling with the 650-hp power house – how did that feel, and what were the main difficulties?
Jochi Kleint: Pikes Peak is one of the highest mountains in the world. Back then, we used to race on gravel and started at 2,800 metres above sea level. You have to be incredibly fit. Overcoming the altitude was an extreme problem – it is difficult to breath at 4,300 metres. Another issue was the fact that you were not able to practice before the event, but only on three official practice days, when the mountain was divided into three sections and the various classes were assigned certain sections. We were not able to decide for ourselves which section we wanted to practice. That was difficult.
How did you prepare – did you have a specific practice routine?
Jochi Kleint: There was no specific practice, as such. I checked out the mountain beforehand in a car I hired out in America. They used to check all the tourists on the downhill section, to ensure that they did not drive to fast and the brakes did not fail just before the main road. (laughs)
How difficult is it to drive a twin-engine Golf?
Jochi Kleint: I really had to concentrate hard to ensure that both engines were running synchronously. They did, but the load always changed whenever you shifted down on fast sections. When you regained the throttle response and got back on the gas, there were different engine speeds. You also had to make a conscious effort to straighten the car up as you came out of a corner. You had to take multiple factors into account to drive a car like that.
How did the spectators react back then?
Jochi Kleint: There were big crowds at the ‘Race To The Clouds’. The Americans obviously bought into it and were excited by the two engines in the Golf. That was a great story for Volkswagen Motorsport and the Volkswagen brand.
How much fear or respect did you have for this challenge – and what do you think about that drive now?
Jochi Kleint: I have fond recollections and would happily do it again – any time! It is an incredible challenge. I was lucky enough to enjoy it when it was still held on gravel. Nowadays it is asphalted, which will also be interesting. I was not afraid as I was ascending. You should not be nervous anyway. I had respect. That is a better way of putting it.
You did not have a co-driver back then. Instead, you recorded your pace notes and played them on a cassette recorder. If you were to do it again, would you use a recorder or take a ‘real’ co-driver with you?
Jochi Kleint: If the layout has not changed too much, I would still know the majority off by heart. I could drive it with my eyes closed. I recorded the pace notes on the cassette recorder as I was crawling up the mountain in the hire car. I then recorded a faster version when I was able to practice on the actual route. To allow me to do that, I fastened a recording device around my neck. I obviously had to speak much louder, but it worked.
The legend lives on: the 1986 world championship-winning golf
Since entering the WRC in 2013, Volkswagen Motorsport has enjoyed remarkable success at the pinnacle of rallying. However, the manufacturer from Wolfsburg first made its mark on the World Rally Championship 30 years ago. The protagonists back then? Kenneth Eriksson, Peter Diekmann and the second generation of the Golf GTI. Finances? Limited. Timing? Perfect. Result? Successful. Rallying at this time? In transition, from B to A!
The circumstances, under which Volkswagen Motorsport made its debut in the World Rally Championship, were extraordinary – as extraordinary as the period, in which the pinnacle of rallying found itself at the time: the Group B era, which ultimately spawned the World Rally Championship. A controversial era, which is still the subject of much discussion today. Infamous and spectacular on the one hand, dangerous on the other. Too dangerous.
Because the regulations allowed it – perhaps even encouraged it – 1982 witnessed an unprecedented arms race between the manufacturers, without limits or regulations, with little consideration, but with plenty of show and sensation. Cars generating up to 550 hp, four-wheel drive, turbo-charged, and capable of accelerating from 0 to 100 in less than three seconds – facts and figures that made the cars prone to a lack of control, but that created a legend that lives on today. Only a few drivers were able to maintain control of these absurdly souped-up monsters, resulting in regular big crashes. The FIA was forced to react, taking a step backwards with a new set of regulations – from B to A, you could say. At the same time as the Group B world championship, a world rally championship was held for the first time with Group A regulations in 1986.
This meant that, as well as the 550-hp prototypes, production-based sports cars with about 200 hp were also going head to head. This minimised the risk to fans, drivers and co-drivers. The forerunner to the WRC was born.
This rethink came at the right time for Volkswagen: the second generation of Golf had just seen the light of day for the first time. The head of Volkswagen motorsport at the time, Klaus-Peter Rosorius, saw in the Group A regulations the opportunity to establish the new Golf on the sporting scene and signed up talented Swedish rally driver Kenneth Eriksson. His co-driver was the experienced Peter Diekmann.
With relatively modest funds and a team of 15 mechanics, the Golf GTI was modified and made fit for the world championship. In a nutshell: front end, strut bearings, intakes for springs and wishbones, welding seams and seat consoles were strengthened and adapted to meet the high demands of the championship. Two bucket seats were equipped with six-point harnesses. The roll cage sat on large base plates. Everything else was cleared out of the Golf. Anything surplus to requirements was removed.
The white and blue of the main sponsor and imposing additional headlights gave the Golf a unique appearance. Volkswagen Motorsport’s first year in the World Rally Championship was a success story. If necessary, it even ran on three wheels, as at the Acropolis Rally, where the rear-right axle of the Golf broke. Give up? Not Eriksson. Although the truck carrying the necessary spare parts was far away, the Swede continued – at up to 160 km/h and on three wheels. Once he reached the service vehicle and had replaced the axle, he was able to continue. His reward: second place in the class.
Volkswagen upgraded midway through the season: the new 16-valve engine generated 20 hp more. Success continued to come: the record at the end of the season read three class victories, four second places and two thirds. Eriksson/Diekmann won the title and Volkswagen was crowned 1986 Group A world rally champion – with far less means at its disposal than the opposition, with their four-wheel drive cars and teams often more than 100 strong.
The fate of Group B was sealed after several tragic accidents in 1986. Group A emerged from the shadows of Group B in the 1987 season, marking a new start for the World Rally Championship. Volkswagen competed again in 1987 with the previous year’s successful model. Eriksson/Diekmann claimed the first overall victory at a WRC rally in the history of Volkswagen Motorsport at the Ivory Coast Rally.
About a quarter of a century later, Volkswagen’s success story continued with the Polo R WRC. Spectators at the Rally Germany were witness to proof that the legend born 30 years ago lives on today. Driven by three-time German rally champion Dieter Depping, a reproduction of the 1986 world championship-winning car took on the role of 0 car – the car that opens the special stages ahead of the entire field. There could hardly have been a more appropriate task. After all, the second generation of Golf GTI also led the way 30 years ago.
Green light for special exhibition: "50 Years of Excitement" officially opened in Berlin
Half a century and counting – the special exhibition celebrating Volkswagen Motorsport's 50th anniversary was officially opened in Berlin on Wednesday. In addition to three-time world rally champion Sébastien Ogier (F), former world rally champion Luis Moya (E) and motorsport legend Hans-Joachim "Strietzel" Stuck, other aces from throughout the history of Volkswagen Motorsport attended the premiere at the "DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum": Timo Gottschalk (D), co-driver in the 2011 Rally Dakar victory, former Volkswagen rally driver Klaus-Joachim "Jochi" Kleint (D), Klaus Niedzwiedz (D), who started his motorsport career in Formula Vee, and Alfons Stock and Paul Schmuck (D/D), who won the Germany Rally Championship in the Rheila-Golf in 1981.
Legendary reporter Rainer Braun (D) and Patrick Simon (D) – racing driver and commentator – hosted the atmospheric opening of the retrospective. Braun, who was part of the driver line-up when Formula Vee made its German debut at the Norisring in 1965, entertained the 100 or so guests with plenty of anecdotes. The special exhibition is open until 30 October in Friedrichstraße/Unter den Linden – entry is free.
Real one-offs are under the spotlight at the exhibition: from a Formula Vee single-seater from the sixties, with which Volkswagen started their motorsport history, to the 2013 edition of the Polo R WRC, with which Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (F/F) won all three titles in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) for Volkswagen for the first time. There are also rarities to marvel at, such as Kleint's twin-engine Golf for the legendary Pikes Peak race, the bright green Rheila-Golf, the Iltis that was victorious at the 1980 Rally Dakar, as well as the Group A World Rally Championship-winning Golf from 1986. Also at the exhibition: the Race Touareg 3, with which Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q) and Gottschalk won the 2011 Rally Dakar, as well as a current Golf GTI TCR from Volkswagen's successful customer racing programme.
Informative insights into the areas of teamwork, technology, sound, service, adventure and success make the fascination of motorsport a tangible, palpable experience for visitors. Interactive exhibition elements bring the world of motorsport to life for guests: as well as a slot car track there is a driving simulator, in which visitors have the opportunity to compete against the time set by Sébastien Ogier and compare themselves with the three-time world rally champion.
Sébastien Ogier at official opening.
Under starters’ orders in Berlin: the interactive special exhibition that is part of the celebrations of 50 Years of Volkswagen Motorsport begins. From Monday, 5th September, the doors in the DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum are open for visitors. Entrance to the exhibition is free.
The exhibition will officially open on Wednesday, 7th September 2016. As announced at the premiere, the new Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets, world rally champion Sébastien Ogier and Volkswagen representative Hans-Joachim “Strietzel” Stuck will be joined by other Volkswagen Motorsport aces, such as Timo Gottschalk or Klaus-Joachim “Jochi” Kleint. The spotlight will be on some unique exhibits at this retrospective, including: Kleint’s twin-engine Golf for the iconic Pikes Peak hillclimb, the Race Touareg 3 that Gottschalk and Nasser Al-Attiyah drove to victory in the 2011 Dakar Rally, and the current world championship-winning car, the Polo R WRC from the World Rally Championship. Visitors will be guided through the successful history of Volkswagen Motorsport by informative and interactive exhibits, from Monday, 5th September, to 30th October.
Fascinating special exhibition at
“DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum”.
Showcasing a spectacular history: Volkswagen is staging a special, interactive exhibition looking back on its history of motor racing at DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum. The retrospective exhibition, which can be seen from 05 September to 30 October 2016 at the Volkswagen Group Forum on Friedrichstraße/Unter den Linden, marks the 50th anniversary of Volkswagen Motorsport. The exhibition features eight dynamic exhibits, accompanied by various interactive modules allowing visitors to experience the fascination of five decades of motorsport through video, audio and picture installations.
The spotlight is on eight unique specimens from across the history of Volkswagen Motorsport, from the Golf that won the Group A World Rally Championship and the Race Touareg that enjoyed such great success at the Rally Dakar to the current WRC-winning Polo and the twin-engine Golf that made such an impression on the iconic Pikes Peak hillclimb. As well as Volkswagen’s rally legends, circuit racing exhibits will also feature at DRIVE. These include a 1960s Formula Vee single-seater, which kick-started the brand’s motorsport history, and a present-day Golf GTI TCR from Volkswagen’s successful customer racing programme.
Informative insights into teamwork, technology, sound, service, adventure and success make the fascination of motorsport a tangible experience for visitors. Interactive elements guide them through the successful, and at times extraordinary, history of Volkswagen Motorsport. The visitors are led through the exhibition in various stages.