Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport debuts this weekend at the 'Ring

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Volkswagen Golf. Although the Golf GTI didn’t debut until June 1976, VW’s using this year’s Nürburgring 24-hour race to commemorate the original Golf and the latest GTI. Truth be told, there’s more to the motorsports connection than just a birthday. Eight VW employees spent a year creating the first GTI in secret from the parent company, and when Volkswagen approved it for production, execs only planned on making 5,000 units, just enough to qualify for the the series production car class in FIA touring car racing at the time. Instead, Volkswagen sold nearly 500,000 of the first-gen, and has assembled more than 2 million throughout all generations. VW inaugurated the first GTI Clubsport in 2016, a tweener bridging the gap from the GTI Performance and Golf R, then introduced an updated Clubsport in 2021. 

Now comes the latest Clubsport, to be revealed during the coming weekend’s 2024 Nūrburgring 24-hour festivities. The former model from 2021 made 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque; this one is pledged to be the most powerful front-driver Golf in the range. It will show a new front end to the world, an illuminated VW logo, reworked LED Plus headlights, a big ol’ hatch spoiler, and 19-inch Queenstown wheels. The options list will include a forged 19-inch wheel called Warmenau saving nearly 18 pounds per corner. Drivers caress a new leather-wrapped steering wheel and, just like in the last variant, activate a special driving profile that sets the car up for best performance on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, changing the lateral tuning profile of the standard steel suspension or the vertical responses of the adaptive DCC suspension.  

There’s going to be lots of Golf on the course as well. The automaker’s factory entry is a one-off Golf GTI Clubsport 24h sending 343 hp and 332 lb-ft to the front axle when drinking Shell’s newly formulated E20 synthetic bioethanol fuel. Factory race veterans Benny Leuchter and Johan Kristoffersson will share pilot duties in the #50 car entered for Max Kruse Racing, the number a gift from race organizers. 

Three vintage GTIs are going to mix it up during the ADAC 24h Classic race: A 1978 Golf GTI Kamel with 180 hp, a 1980 Golf GTI Group 2 with 181 hp and VW’s GTI-exclusive camo bearing “50 Years of Golf” on the roof, and a 1981 Golf GTI 16S Oettinger with 205 hp, 

Stay tuned for specs on the production GTI Clubsport, which could be accompanied by some ‘Ring antics, who knows. As with most models out of Germany dubbed Clubsport, don’t expect this one to make it to the States.

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