Rabbits, run: The home-brewed magic of the Mk1 Madness Festival

Esher Lutzo organized the first Mk1 Madness Festival 10 years ago because he wanted to gather together owners of first-generation Volkswagen Rabbits, GTIs, Cabriolets and pickups, and maybe swap parts and stories. A few people showed up in the rain for a camp out. This year, more than 300 people came to the campground in Maple Grove, Penn., for the weekend festival, and more than 150 people brought their Mk1s to be entered in the annual auto show. Campers came from around the country – travelling from as far as Alaska, and driving from as far as Minnesota in a 1983 Rabbit GTI. “It’s about the community around these cars,” Lutzo says. “The people that work on Mk1s have so much respect for other Mk1 people, they just do everything right. It’s a family, one big family.” Disclaimer: Modifying vehicles can adversely affect reliability, warranty coverage, & compliance with safety and other standards Lutzo says the Mk1s offer an approachable form of classic-car ownership; a low barrier to entry in both money and time, with the benefit of cars that have aged well over the years. Having a community behind Mk1s is an added bonus for many of these people, who’ve spent years working on their cars and collecting parts. During the festival, owners can enter their Mk1 vehicles into the show and earn trophies for various categories, including Best in Show for Rabbits, Pickup Trucks, Jettas, Cabriolets, Scirocco 1 and Scirocco 2, Farthest Distance Travelled, NOS + (New Old Stock Plus), to name but a few. Anyone who enters a vehicle also has a chance to judge the other vehicles, making the term the “people’s choice” the most accurate description. The trophies are handcrafted and distributed by Lutzo. “We made a goofy trophy last year; it went to guy who brought a car with modifications that were just really silly. A lot of the stuff on the car, like cambered wheels in the back, is stuff that people do, but not everyone really likes. This year, we gave him the ‘NOPE’ trophy because it’s just silly, and he loved it.” The group organizes purely by word of mouth, using Facebook as their main channel of communication. Lutzo coordinates the event entirely on his own – without advertisements, official sponsors or paid partners. While the Mk1 Madness festival is an annual event, the spirit and enthusiasm of the attendees stays strong all year. Owners bring parts to the show and spend the weekend trading tips and stories about working on their cars over the years. The people who come out to this event show more than just enthusiasm for the cars, they show a genuine passion for Mk1s. One Volkswagen Rabbit pickup that had been bought and sold among several members has earned its own social media hashtag. The group donated money to fly its original owner in from the Pacific Northwest to this year’s event, just so he could drive it again. “A guy who races Rabbits in Alaska flew to Ohio and drove in with one of the club members, and attended the event,” Lutzo said. “He was amazed with it and will definitely come back next year.”

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Perfect Weekend for Scott Speed Wraps Up Red Bull Global Rallycross Manufacturer’s Championship for Volkswagen

Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross’s Scott Speed was unstoppable in Atlantic City this weekend, claiming victory in two races at the Bader Field circuit and reclaiming control of his championship destiny with a nearly perfect haul of points. The double triumph also secured Volkswagen’s second, consecutive manufacturer’s championship in the series, making it only the second automaker to win multiple championship titles. Speed set sail from the outset of the weekend with the quickest time in qualifying for Race 1 on Saturday morning. His one bobble of the weekend came in the second round of Heats on Saturday, where the No. 41 Oberto Circle K Beetle GRC driver finished second. “This was an incredibly important race weekend for us, and we walked out of Atlantic City with about the best result we could have hoped for,” said Speed. “The Beetle GRC is on rails, and it’s a testament to this crew and how hard we’ve all worked to build a super competitive race team.” While Speed won the first Final of the weekend, his journey to the checkered flag was anything but easy. A pileup at the first corner shuffled the running order and Speed had to set out in chase of the race leaders. He made a thrilling pass for the lead with just two laps to go and earned his first winner’s trophy of the weekend in one of the season’s most exciting races so far. Sunday was a more routine setting for the reigning series champion. Speed again was quickest in qualifying and controlled each of his races from the front of the pack, earning wins in every event and maximum trove of points. While Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross teammate Tanner Foust was also at the quick end of the field, he fell victim to a number of unlucky incidents that prevented him from enjoying an equally successful weekend. Foust started beside his teammate in Saturday’s Final, but the first lap contact between the field of ten drivers forced the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Drink Beetle GRC to stop on course. Contact was the only constant variable throughout Sunday’s running and Foust found himself involved in much of it. The carnage would not allow Foust any clear running and he was stuck fighting with slower cars on the tough Bader Field circuit. “With ten cars on such a tight track, there’s bound to be contact, but this was a particularly difficult weekend for some reason,” said Foust. “We’ll move on to the next round and look to bounce back.” With his near-perfect weekend in Atlantic City, Speed reclaimed the lead in the championship standings. He also retook the title of winningest driver in Red Bull Global Rallycross history from Foust, an accolade they have traded all season. With three races remaining in 2017, Volkswagen clinched its second manufacturer’s championship title. With six wins from nine races so far this season, the Beetle GRC has once again proved to be the car to beat and Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross as the series’ strongest team this year. Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross will return to action next month for another doubleheader in Seattle on Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10. Broadcasts of the event will air LIVE on NBC each day at 4:30PM (ET). of

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Michael Andretti on racing, rallycross, and a potential electric future

With one of motorsport’s most famous names, Michael Andretti was born to play an important role in North American racing. As a driver, he did just that, becoming one of the most-decorated racers in American open-wheel motorsport, and he’s continued to make a mark even after hanging up his helmet. His successful Andretti Autosport operation has competed since 2009 across a diverse array of racing disciplines, with dozens of victories and several series championships. In 2014, Andretti Autosport began its collaboration with Volkswagen in Red Bull Global Rallycross, becoming the first legacy racing team to enter the burgeoning series. Since then, Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross has been at the sharp end of the Red Bull Global Rallycross grid, earning a pair of Driver’s Championships and a matching set of Manufacturer’s Championship crowns. We caught up with Michael Andretti after the first Red Bull Global Rallycross race in Indianapolis—a few short miles from the Andretti Autosport shop, just after Scott Speed and Tanner Foust had scored a dominating hometown 1-2 finish for the team the day before. Rallycross is very different from the other forms of racing you do at Andretti Autosport. What attracted you to GRC before you were an entrant in the series? I went to an event and really enjoyed the concept of it all. We started a conversation with Volkswagen at that time and I knew that if I was ever going to get involved, it had to be with a manufacturer partner. We developed it together with Volkswagen and that’s how we got involved. One of the other things that really got me interested for Andretti Autosport was that Rallycross is going after millennials in a way other racing series don’t. For us, it diversifies our racing product. It was the perfect way to do it. What was something that surprised you about working in Global Rallycross? What’s surprised me is, it’s a very labor-intensive series for the mechanics. They work their butts off. Of all the series that we’re in, the rallycross mechanics probably work hardest. They basically get a car that’s crashed after every practice and after every heat, and they have around 45 minutes to turn around and get it ready for the next time on track. It’s amazing the amount of work and the things that they do between all that. It’s unusual for a team to achieve success right away in a new racing endeavor, yet Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross was successful from early on. Were you surprised by how quickly the team started contending for wins and championships? I thought we had a really good shot. First of all, we were working with a great company like Volkswagen, so I knew that we had that going for us. I think that where it all started—where I really felt like we were going to do well was our driver lineup. I mean, the first two guys who came to my mind were the guys we ended up with—Scott and Tanner. I thought of Scott because he had only run two races in GRC and I think he won them both, never even having seen the car before. I was very impressed with that. Also, the way Tanner drove compared to the other guys that were in the series stood out to me. When I went to watch them, I thought, “He’s got the right idea.” So I thought we were going to be competitive, just having these drivers and then obviously collaborating with Volkswagen. The first year was a tough one because we were competing with these old cars [Polos] that made for a tough situation, but our drivers carried us through. The first season went down to the wire where we were in contention for the championship with Scott, but once we got the Beetle it’s been a lot of fun. You’ve worked with other manufacturers on racing programs before, but the relationship with Volkswagen is particularly close. There are even Volkswagen Motorsport engineers from Germany who come to work at each race. Every week, we have a meeting by phone with Volkswagen Motorsport, so there’s constant communication. We’re 100 percent their team and we are on the same page with them all the time. I think the Germans are tough. You have to earn their respect, and I believe it took us a year or so to do that, but once you do, they really get behind you and I think that’s where we are today. I think that has a lot to do with our successes—the way we’ve been able to work together with Germany. Your crew in Indianapolis works well with Volkswagen Motorsport in Germany, but it’s also important for the guys who get behind the wheel to fit into the equation. That was the other thing. The drivers’ personalities are really good. They work and learn a lot from each other on the race track, but what I really love is their relationship off the racetrack and the way they play off each other. When they do their skits for VW’s online videos, I think they’re hilarious and I think it’s because their two personalities are fun and work well together. I love the whole dynamic of our team here with the drivers. When the drivers are getting along like that, it just makes the rest of the team easier. Like I said, it goes back to the drivers—I think they’re a big reason for our success. This season has been particularly good for Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross. The team scored its fourth 1-2 finish of the year in Indy. How important was it for you to do so well at your home race? It was great; I was so happy for the guys. This was a chance for them to have their families come out and enjoy it. The wives and kids can see what dad does and then to go out and finish 1-2 is so awesome for the team. I’m so happy for all the guys. It was a big weekend for us. After this weekend, your drivers are back leading the points. VW has a pretty big lead in the Manufacturer’s Championship. Another set of championships is the goal, right? We’re going after it. It’s tough though—it’s not a given. The way the points system is this year, it’s making it tough. We have to execute each and every heat and each and every final to maximize the points we get. I think there will be guys chasing us who are going to be there at the last race that we have to worry about. We cannot lose our focus. We’re in a good position, but it’s not over. We can get beat pretty quick. We have one bad weekend and those other guys are back in the lead, so we can’t lose sight of that. The Beetle GRC is unlike anything you ever raced. Any interest in getting behind the wheel for a test drive? They look like a blast to drive. It’d be fun to get into, but also I’m so out of it that it would be frustrating for me. No doubt they’re cool. They’re one of the coolest cars out there. You’ve been a part of developing rallycross into a more popular discipline for the U.S. What do you think the future of the sport holds? I think the future is pretty exciting and I think electric could be a big part of it. Many of us have come to the conclusion that GRC would be the perfect place to showcase electric vehicles. What you’re looking for out of these race cars is a lot of torque, which is what electric gives you, and the races are so short that range isn’t a concern. So rallycross is actually the perfect place for people to go out and say, “Wow, those electric cars really perform.” I think it will definitely help people understand the new technology more and maybe encourage fans to want to go out and buy an electric car.

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Eleven miles, 318 curves: Watch VW Golf R owners tame the Dragon

For the past 11 years, Volkswagen Golf R and R32 owners have gathered on the North Carolina/Tennessee border to enjoy some of the country’s most beautiful scenery and mountain roads surrounding the famous “Tail of the Dragon” – U.S. Route 129. The road’s 318 curves over some 11 miles draws a steady crowd of driving enthusiasts. Earlier this year, Sean Maynard, a specialist in experiential marketing at Volkswagen of America, attended the event and invited his friend, and new Mk7 Golf R owner, Gavin Smith along for the journey. Despite owning a number of different Volkswagen models over the years, Gavin had never been to a VW enthusiast event. Sean was excited to show his friend the great Volkswagen car community and drive some amazing roads at the same time.  

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A hard ride for a good cause: Ride On for Red Nose Day

Imagine biking nearly 400 miles in four days through the mountains and deserts of Nevada and southern California, burning through as many as 20 bottles of water each day during your eight to 10 hours on two wheels – just for fun. It’s not a spin class gone horribly wrong. It’s one of two long-distance rides hosted by professional racing cyclist and bike enthusiast, Tim Johnson to raise money and awareness for this year’s Red Nose Day event, called Ride on For Red Nose Day powered by Walgreen’s and PeopleForBikes. Some 20 riders joined Johnson and a support team on their desert trek, with another 400-mile event on the East Coast between Boston and New York drawing 25 enthusiasts in front of the support team led by the all-new Volkswagen Atlas. “This is the first year that a cycling event has been added to promote Red Nose Day” said Tim Johnson “These rides are a great example of the motivation the cycling community can inspire in others and it was great to have Volkswagen come on board and provide support vehicles for the ride”. Since its launch in 1988, Red Nose Day, a project of the Walgreens Boots Alliance Fund, has raised over $1 billion globally in an effort to end child poverty. This year, the incorporation of Ride On for Red Nose Day helped raise over $180,000. While Red Nose Day has always used comedy as its main source of attention, Johnson thought cycling could pair well with the cause. “I wanted to explore cycling because it was an activity that was nationwide and allowed a lot of different people to be involved,” he said. Each of the riders raised a minimum of $5,000 for the pleasure of punishing themselves for four days; a select few riders signed up for both events. The groups had a full support team in four Volkswagen chase vehicles and a chef to ensure their meals provided the right mix of nutrition. The western terrain made for some “touch and go” exertions, but Johnson said the riders were up for the challenge. “I tried to create a fun ride that people feel great about supporting,” he said. “It’s a dream scenario for people who would consider themselves enthusiast cyclists.” After some 38,518 feet of climbing, the event set a new high mark for Red Nose Day efforts, one that Johnson says was more than just a fundraiser. “For me, the best part of the rides was the opportunity to witness a couple of specific riders. Not everyone was a professional rider, and some of them really dug deep and fought hard to get to the finish line. When you get to witness that effort next to you, hour after hour, I can’t think of anything more inspiring.”

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Discover the ancient sharks that once roamed your neighborhood

To continue the buzz and excitement around the all-new Atlas, Volkswagen leveraged its 6-year collaboration with Discovery’s Shark Week to bring an interactive experience to life showing America that with the new 7-seater SUV, Life’s As Big As You Make It. This year’s story centers around the Goulds, a family of Shark Week super fans, as they head from one amazing location to the next, crisscrossing the country on an epic summer road trip and learning all about the prehistoric sharks that once swam the Inland Sea, a massive ocean that used to cover much of the continental United States. In addition to their journey, Volkswagen and Discovery have also created a unique online experience that allows viewers at home to explore the depths of their neighborhood alongside these ancient sharks and through an immersive Google Streetview experience, which lets them enter any address in the United States and watch the sharks swim the streets of their neighborhood.  

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A Trip to Wörthersee

About the author: Jamie Orr is an ardent enthusiast of the Volkswagen brand. He is a professional parts and car importer and a freelance automotive journalist. When not driving, finding, restoring, or writing stories about Volkswagen cars, he enjoys cycling, traveling, and spending time with his family and rescued animals. Jamie was compensated by Volkswagen of America for this article. The opinions expressed are his alone.  The famous entry gate, and granite VW Golf statue, at the GTI Treffen. Nestled in the Austrian Alps, the GTI Treffen in Wörthersee just might have one of the most beautiful settings in the world for a car gathering. Started in the early 1980s and running continuously since, the event attracts well over 100,000 visitors each year to a beautiful lake, located about 3 hours south of Munich, Germany, and only an hour’s drive away from Italy and Slovenia via wonderfully twisty roads. The USA group, posing on the VW stage. The car is a 1993 VW Fox from Pennsylvania. Enthusiastic owners bring their watercooled VW models (which include the Golf, Jetta, Scirocco, Passat, and most other VW models made after 1974) from all across Europe, with many fans also traveling from North America, Africa, and similarly farther afield. A group of friends and I traveled as a small group, transporting our own cars from the U.S. to Germany for this year’s event. Using the same ships that the VW logistics team uses to move new cars from their production location in Germany to local dealerships in the U.S., we sent a 1999 New Beetle and a 1993 Fox from Rhode Island to the VW Emden port in Germany.   A Stop in Wolfsburg The Volkswagen Autostadt, in Wolfsburg, Germany. The port that receives the gigantic multi-story vessels was fascinating, but once the cars arrived we headed to another Volkswagen location: the headquarters and factory located in Wolfsburg. The facility is a huge, active production site surrounded by beautiful landscaping and fantastically designed buildings. For about $20, you can access the entire AutoStadt campus. It contains the ZeitHaus car museum, which not only has significant Volkswagen cars but also a range of models deemed important in automotive history. (A tip for the dedicated VW enthusiast: Make time to visit the smaller, jam-packed VW Stiftung Auto Museum, located a mile or so away, which houses many prototype and milestone cars.) VW Golf Country in the ZeitHaus Museum, Wolfsburg, Germany. Our full day in Wolfsburg included the must-see factory tour and ended with a very special trip up one of the two Car Towers, used to store new cars to be collected on-site by their owners. At around 200 feet tall, each tower can hold up to 400 vehicles, with one parking spot near the top reserved for guests to take photos. Our group didn’t miss out on this great attraction, but things got better when we were invited to exit the ride and climb to the roof of the towers for a special view over the imposing factory. The two USA cars, posing in front of the automatic car delivery towers. A behind-the-scenes view, looking down inside the Car Towers. On to WörtherseeLeaving Wolfsburg, we headed south through farmlands, cities, and rolling hills, covering more than 400 miles on the German Autobahn before heading into the Alps towards Austria. There were plenty of vistas and historic locations along the way. Then, finally, the long, strikingly turquoise Lake Wörth came into view. For a couple of weeks each spring, this popular year-long tourist destination fills with VW models and owners in every parking lot, fuel station, and local attraction. Old and new friends meet to talk about cars and to relax in a world of automotive escapism. Picturesque views from a Autobahn fuel station in Austria. The hybrid Golf GTI First Decade prototype was unveiled at the Austria event. To reach the epicenter of the Wörthersee event and the site of the official VW stage in the small town of Reifnitz, you can either drive on a wonderful waterfront road or take the undulating hilly roads from the south. Wildflowers scent the air and snow-capped peaks dot the horizon in this tranquil area. It’s a perfect contrast with thousands of tuned and modified Volkswagen vehicles. VW Fun, Closer to Home Enthusiast events abound for Volkswagen around the globe, but here are a few closer to the States. H2O International H2Oi trades the Austrian Alps for the pristine beaches of Ocean City, Maryland, and offers a similar glimpse into the world of ardent Volkswagen car enthusiasts. The official show will be held on Saturday, September 30, and Sunday, October 1, 2017, but attendees often arrive at the beginning of the week to visit the boardwalk and frequent the local restaurants and attractions. The Volkswagen USA team will display their Enthusiast Concept cars alongside hundreds of privately owned watercooled cars. Wateriest Tens of thousands of VW fans make their way to New Jersey every year for this biggest VW fan gathering in North America: Waterfest. It’s a celebration that showcases VW-themed exhibition vehicles, contests, and more where attendees of the two-day, 23-year-old event can check out more than 100 vendors, and attend the Afterfest—the official after party. Modifying vehicles can adversely affect warranty coverage and compliance with required safety and other standards. The Volkswagen GTI Treffen in Reifnitz hosted a large display area to unveil the latest performance models and design prototypes. Our own cars were proudly displayed on the stage each day next to the VW Apprentice Cars. Apprentice Cars are two new models built each year by a group of young apprentices, using their own design ideas with full access to the parts department. The first car this year was a Golf GTE Variant impulsE, which in English means a modified Golf SportWagen powered by a Golf GTE drivetrain with double the electrical capacity. The second car, the Golf GTI First Decade, offered an exciting glimpse into an imagined future: a 2.0-liter turbocharged motor for the front wheels, and a great big electrical motor for the rears, both able to work simultaneously or independently based on speed or energy-saving needs. The Pyramidenkogel, in Reifnitz, Austria—the world’s tallest wooden lookout tower that’s well worth the walk (or elevator ride) to the top. There were hundreds of other vehicles at the event and plenty of ways to continue the entertainment in the evenings. We took a boat at sunset that roamed the lake long into the night. One of our favorite activities was visiting the top of the Pyramidenkogel, a large hilltop tower with a spectacular 360-degree view of the lake and one of Europe’s longest slides. There are also a huge variety of local cafes, waterfront restaurants, casinos, and more in the small towns nearby. We thoroughly enjoyed this year’s event, and I hope to return again—and I hope to see more U.S. VW enthusiasts, too. Read more about the author’s previous visits to Wörthersee and his advice for making the most of the event. To Visit: The GTI Treffen is held in late April or May each year in Reifnitz, Kärnten, Austria, depending on the German holiday calendar. The Autostadt is open almost year-round, but check for factory tour availability. of

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