A reasonably priced alternative to Formula 3? Volkswagen had the answer at the end of the 90s: the touring car school. It was here, that countless talented youngsters were given a route into motorsport between 1998 and 2014.
Many of the young drivers learned far more than just the basics of motorsport …
… because the touring car school was also about learning for life.
The ADAC Volkswagen Touring Junior Cup was launched in 1998. The Wolfsburg-based manufacturer organised ten races, with the Lupo – brand-new at the time – the car of choice. The goal: equal opportunity and a reasonably priced route into professional touring car racing.
In 1999, Volkswagen’s touring car school was renamed the ADAC Volkswagen Lupo Cup.
Experienced touring car driver Kris Nissen, who went on to become Volkswagen Motorsport Director, was on hand to offer the students advice and guidance. He not only gave them tips on how to get round the circuit fastest in the racing version of the Lupo, but also laid down the law – where necessary – if the young guns got carried away out on the track.
Safety was always a priority in the junior series. Right from the outset, the Lupo was equipped with a solid roll cage, a fire extinguisher and a racing harness.
In order to ensure equal opportunity, all the models used over the years were maintained and run centrally by auto tuning company Abt Sportsline.
The ADAC Volkswagen Lupo Cup provided Volkswagen with a spectacular stage, on which to showcase its products. The Lupo, for example, only went on sale in dealerships about half a year after the start of the racing series. That obviously caused quite a stir.
In 2004, the ADAC Volkswagen Lupo Cup was replaced by the ADAC Volkswagen Polo Cup.
From 2010 to 2014, the 235-hp Scirocco was the star of the Volkswagen touring school – now known as the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup.
The Push-to-Pass system, which was developed in cooperation with series partner Bosch, added another tactical element, with drivers having access to an additional 50 hp for a limited period of time. This could be used to launch, or fend off, overtaking manoeuvres.
There were plenty of lively exchanges in one-make series around the world. Drivers from Japan, South Africa and India travelled to Germany to gain experience.
Extra spice was added by the many legendary racing drivers, who lined up as guest starters over the years – from Formula One world champion Damon Hill and World Cup winner Andreas Brehme to Olympic ski-jumping gold medallist Sven Hannawald and stratosphere diver Felix Baumgartner.
The racetrack also witnessed its fair share of girl power. 2014 saw four flying ladies put their male counterparts under plenty of pressure: Doreen Seidel, Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, Lucile Cypriano and Jasmin Preisig. 21-year-old Swedish driver Åhlin-Kottulinsky made a name for herself as the first and only woman to win a race in the 17-year history of the touring school, choosing none other than the highlight of the season at the Norisring to achieve her feat.
Despite Åhlin-Kottulinsky’s best efforts, the final title in the Scirocco R-Cup went to one of her male colleagues: South Africa’s Jordan Lee Pepper.
When the curtain fell on the 2014 season in Hockenheim, the final group of graduates were sent into the world of motorsport with a top-class education – and the Volkswagen touring car school was closed for business.