The new Golf GTE combines GTI dynamics with e-Golf sustainability. Volkswagen WRC Rally driver Andreas Mikkelsen has been putting the GTE through its paces for a day around the bends of his adopted home of Monaco. In an exclusive interview, he explains why the new plug-in hybrid works perfectly for his sporty urban lifestyle.
This is so different from driving my Polo WRC rally car – it almost feels like I have a double life. The intensity of driving the World Rally Championship is unimaginable: the power of the engine; the forces on your body as you accelerate, brake and corner; the noise from the engine and the road; and the co-driver shouting instructions through the headphones. The landscape is often incredibly beautiful, but as it rushes towards you there is no time to enjoy it. You have to keep focussed. If you make even a tiny mistake, the beautiful rocks and ditches are all waiting to rip off one of your wheels. Between events it’s relatively quiet. We plan the next rally with the team. I study the on-board videos we filmed at the events last year, looking at mistakes I made and working out how to avoid them this time around. To keep in shape, I go to the gym or go cycling and do relaxation exercises. People see videos of rally cars jumping, drifting and crashing, and they often think the drivers are all crazy hot-heads, permanently living at full throttle. But winning a rally isn't just about driving aggressively. That's not sustainable – if you go too fast you crash, or you have to go slower in the next two corners. To become a world champion, you need patience and intelligence. You have to find the balance between being fired-up and being relaxed. That's what I like about this Golf GTE – it does fast just like a GTI and it does cool like the e-Golf. It's sporty and sustainable.
When I first came to Monaco, I missed my family and friends, and I missed Oslo. I used to go back quite a lot. But then I made some friends and now I love the freedom here. I’m single, I love my job and Monaco is a really exciting city. OK, the traffic is slow, but during the Formula 1 Grand Prix season in late spring this city can be fast and furious. There’s a big buzz in Monaco, a lot of cool people and beautiful girls. Here, Formula 1 drivers are like pop stars. Rally drivers are not quite so glamorous, but we get some attention, too. The new Golf GTE is a great car to relax in. Whether I’m cruising through the scenery, sitting in traffic or just going across town to a café, it's all really easy. Everybody imagines that when I get in a car, I drive like a player in Grand Theft Auto, but honestly I get rid of my need for speed in the WRC. And anyway, I've got to be careful not to collect points on my licence – at WRC events we have to drive to the stages on public roads and without a driving licence you can't take part. I like really fast cars, but when I think about buying one I notice how Norwegian I am. A Lamborghini, for example, is a fantastic car, but I wouldn't want that much attention. There is a Norwegian band called Kings of Convenience, they had an album called “Quiet is the New Loud”, and that sums up the Norwegian attitude to lots of things.
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