Two factory-built GTIs will mark Volkswagen's return to the 24-hours at Nürburgring this week. The cars are modified production vehicles with 300 hp under their hoods. They'll be helping VW usher in the newish R-Line banner, using some of the distinctive parts found on models like the Golf R32 and Passat R36. Volkswagen has been testing the GTIs quite a bit to get them ready for the race, including a 4-hour stint around the Green Hell last month.

The original GTI was launched in 1976, but it wasn't until 20 years later that Volkswagen started using a factory team to test its street technology in the 24-hour enduro. And this year they get to test the 2.0 L TFSI motor and six-speed DSG gearbox, which sounds like it could be a lot of fun around that Behemoth. Piloting the GTIs will be an all-star cast of VW employees, racers and VW-affiliated personalities. Look for Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg (management board), Bernd Ostmann (auto motor und sport editor), Dieter Depping and François Verbist (Volkswagen Dakar racers) in the 101 car. The number 111 GTI will be driven by Polo Cup winners René Rast and Jimmy Johansson, Lupo Cup competitor and Seat Cup champion, Florian Gruber, and also Dieter Depping, who will do double duty during the race driving both cars.

Full, lengthy press release available after the jump.

[Source: Volkswagen]

Press Release:

24-hour race Nürburgring 2007

Volkswagen to start at Germany's biggest race

Wolfsburg (5 June 2007). Volkswagen returns to Germany's biggest car race with two Golf GTIs. The two factory-built and entered race cars participate in the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring from 7 to 10 June. Volkswagen continues the brand's long amateur sport tradition, which includes the 24-hour race in the Eifel, with the seriously modified 300 hp production based Golf GTI touring car.

Festival of superlatives in the Eifel

Superlatives describe the 24-hour race: One lap through the "Green Hell" is 25.378 kilometres, the combined length of the Nordschleife and Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit is greater than any other race track. The 24-hour classic has been held since 1970. Also, a maximum of 230 cars can practice for the forthcoming 35 th running of this marathon, while 220 are permitted to start the race – no other starting grid for a 24-hour race is so big. Over 700 drivers, some from abroad, face up to the motorsport marathon. And finally, the race visited by approximately 200,000 spectators also competes for attendance records in Germany. "It is the largest motorsport spectacle in Germany and Europe," says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "We are not competing for overall victory, for us it is purely and simply a question of being a part of the action with two cars in this unique long-distance race. As the brand's best-selling model, the Golf races in front of the largest conceivable motorsport crowd – a fitting backdrop."

Unusual driver squad includes Board Member and "stars of tomorrow"

From Executive Board Member via Dakar Rally truck driver to Volkswagen junior – hardly ever has a driver squad been so wide-ranging. In detail: One Golf GTI (start number 101) is driven by Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management with responsibility for Development of the Volkswagen brand, Bernd Ostmann (Gerlingen), Chief Editor of the specialist magazine 'auto motor und sport', who has regularly participated in record attempts and races for Volkswagen – including the Nürburgring 24-hour race. Dieter Depping (Wedemark) and the Belgian François Verbist, who each drove a Volkswagen Race Truck in the Dakar Rally in January 2007 and who have also distinguished themselves as fast race drivers, complete this squad. A second Golf GTI (start number 111) is shared by René Rast (Steyerberg), 2005 ADAC Volkswagen Polo Cup winner and Volkswagen Junior in second year of support, the Swede Jimmy Johansson, who won the 2006 Cup and is also Volkswagen Junior, Florian Gruber (Aham), third in the 2001 ADAC Volkswagen Lupo Cup and 2006 Seat Leon Supercopa Champion, and also Dieter Depping (Wedemark), who is also nominated to drive the second car.

Golf GTI and Nürburgring – two legends come face to face

The current fifth generation of the popular compact hot-hatch starts on the 1927 built race track. The forerunner of all GTIs appeared in 1976; more than 1.5 million examples have rolled-off the production line since. In 1996 the Volkswagen factory team used the 24-hour race to test new technology in race conditions: The turbo-diesel direct-injection power plant launched in parallel on the market proved early that economy and sport do not contradict one another. A year later, Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen, Jürgen Hohenester and DTM driver Christian Abt finished an excellent second overall. As icon for every sporting compact class car, the GTI, in its current race specification, produces 220 kW/300 hp – exactly 50 per cent or 100 hp more than the production car. The two-litre TFSI turbo engine transmits its power through a six-speed DSG-Direct Shift Gearbox. Volkswagen Motorsport developed the race car in only four months. In addition to unique design solutions, the technicians benefited from the resources and race-proven developments available within the affiliated group.

Racing under the R-Line banner – Michelin as technical partner

The two Golf GTIs race under the R-Line banner at the Nürburgring. Unveiled in December 2006, this Volkswagen Individual GmbH brand markets special interior and exterior sporting optional-equipment kits for the Golf, Touran, Passat and Touareg. The R-Line products borrow characteristic design elements from the high-performance Golf R32 or Passat R36 and therefore enable a cost-effective entry into the world of the sporting Volkswagen. Volkswagen cooperates with Michelin in the after-sales tyre market. The traditional French company is regarded as internationally recognised, expert partner whose list of motorsport triumphs boasts innumerable wins at the 24-hour race.

Test during endurance runs and during test races

Volkswagen undertook a comprehensive test programme to be thoroughly prepared for the long-distance race. The first example of the Golf GTI to be built completed 24-hours at race pace in endurance runs held in Oschersleben – including night stints. In the four-hour long-distance race around the Nürburgring on 12 May, the Golf GTI proved to be fast and reliable straight out of the box by finishing in fourth place in the SP3T class in the hands of Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Bernd Ostmann and René Rast. During the same race, François Verbist and Jimmy Johansson prepared themselves for the 24-hour marathon at the wheel of a Cup Pole. "In spite of the short development time available we instigated a demanding test programme that the Golf GTI reliably completed," emphasises Kris Nissen. "We are well prepared and aim to show the fans just what the GTI can do. It is quite possible that this race could acts as catalyst for future amateur sport projects."

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