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by Tim Beissmann

Volkswagen is unlikely to compete four a fourth consecutive Dakar Rally title in 2012, with the German automotive giant expected to focus its motorsport energy on its 2013 entry in the World Rally Championship.

Late last week, 2011 Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah told Autosport he did not expect to contest the world’s toughest race next year, with Volkswagen all but committed to exiting the event.

“It doesn’t look so possible now,” Al-Attiyah said. “I won’t go there without my engineer and the same team. This is not sensible and I don’t think we will be able to do it.

“It’s a great shame, I really wanted to defend my title.”

A source reportedly close to Volkswagen admitted the effort expended on Dakar would take away from the brand’s new motorsport focus, the 2013 WRC season.

“I think the realisation is coming that the WRC is an enormous program and competing on the Dakar – even as a private team with a lot of factory support – would take a lot of time away from the WRC effort.”

The decision could turn out to be a costly one for Volkswagen however, with Al-Attiyah changing his mind in the past few days. The Qatari driver now appears likely to turn his back on Volkswagen and continue rallying Dakar for a different team.

“My sponsor Barwa made it clear that they wanted me to do Dakar and I want to do Dakar,” Al-Attiyah told Autosport.

“Of course, I want to go back to defend my win. I love this rally and I was very surprised and shocked when I realised that Volkswagen changed its mind and would not be going to the rally. So I couldn’t make the agreement.”

Al-Attiyah is expected to sign with the X-Raid team and drive one of four new MINI Countryman vehicles at Dakar in 2012, and sign with another manufacturer in the WRC.

Volkswagen has committed to racing its new Polo R vehicles in the WRC until 2015 and Al-Attiyah was set to be a key driver for the team.

The deals are still to be finalised, but if seems that Volkswagen’s exit and Al-Attiyah’s defection are set in stone. What do you think: good call or bad call from Volkswagen?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.