A healthy grid of VW's is expected at Brands. Photo: Jakob Ebrey

The 35th birthday of the Golf GTI is to be celebrated this weekend at Brands Hatch by the motorsporting debut of the latest example of Volkswagen’s iconic hot hatchback, the Mk VI.

Resplendent in special ‘Golf GTI 35’ livery, the latest car on the grid of the Volkswagen Racing Cup with FUCHS Lubricants has been prepared for the track by Volkswagen Racing UK and will be driven at Brands Hatch by former BTCC driver Nick Beaumont.

“The original Golf GTI was launched in June 1976 and so our June meeting at Brands Hatch seemed the appropriate moment to launch the latest racing version of the car,” said Melissa Wright of Volkswagen Racing UK. “It is early days to expect the Mk VI to be taking the fight to the Mk V model, which has become the mainstay of the championship, but the new car has tested well and shows lots of promise.

“It’s important that we, as the championship promoter, help to keep the series fresh with the introduction of new models and technology, especially the new engines being introduced to road models by Volkswagen.”

After four races and four different winners, the Volkswagen Racing Cup with FUCHS Lubricants is certainly living up to its reputation for close and unpredictable track action, not to mention the healthiest grid size of any upper-level national saloon championship.

Steve Wood is the man in the hot seat as the championship swings into Brands, but ironically he is the only driver in the top four yet to have won a race – the Gloucestershire Golf pilot has got there thanks to solid point-scoring finishes and a double podium result last time out. Wood has also played his ‘Joker’, doubling his score from his second place at Snetterton last month.

Aaron Mason played his Joker at Snetterton also and did his championship bid no harm at all by claiming a win at the wheel of his Golf GTI; Mason trails Wood by just eight points in the standings, with reigning title holder Steve Chaplin and his ‘Herbie’ Beetle RSI not far behind in third. Steve’s campaign to retain his crown is going superbly so far – one race win and he’s yet to finish off the podium.

The other race victors are James Walker and 2008/’09 champion Joe Fulbrook, each of whom claimed a win at Oulton Park on Easter Monday. Golf man Walker holds championship fourth – just ahead of his dad, Richard, the former truck racing champion – with Fulbrook sixth following what proved by his standards a disastrous weekend in Norfolk last month. Bora driver Joe won both Brands Hatch races last year and will be keen to stop his title rivals from stealing further away.

All of the above are likely to be key players this weekend, and there are several others seeking a slot on the podium also, including Mason’s AWM team-mates Tim Snaylam and Martyn Walsh, Golf GTI men both, and 19-year-old Tomas Wilson, the best-placed championship newcomer and another Golf driver.

Two more Golf racers hold ninth and 10th in the championship: Dutch veteran Peter Lettinga and the championship’s youngest – and sole female – Zoe Wenham, who has just turned 17. Completing the top 12 is the remarkable wheelchair-bound racer Simon Andrews, who is combining speed and consistency to good effect this season.

Golfs may predominate these days but there are still plenty of other sorts of Volkswagen to look out for, including the never less than surprising Caddy Racer of Simon Elliott, the Scirocco of Kieran Griffin, Robin Riley’s Beetle RSI and Peter Wyhinny’s SEAT Leon. There will be a new face on the grid this weekend in Craig Freeman, who will race a Golf GTI Mk V.

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