For the legendary 24-hour race from 23 to 26 June 2011, one of the toughest tests of all in motorsport, Volkswagen has developed a 440-hp race touring car with four-wheel drive based on its top seller. The new “Golf 24” has already reeled off its first kilometres at tests in Portugal and Italy.

Under the hood is Volkswagen’s turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-five, though output has been bumped up to 434 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. That power is managed by a six-speed sequential gearbox and runs to the ground via permanent all-wheel drive. Combine that with a body that has been optimized to keep the car as flat as possible through turns, and what we have here is a seriously fast Golf that’s ready to eat the competition.

The last time Volkswagen entered a Golf in a Nürburgring race was 2007, when a 296-hp, front-wheel-drive example placed eighth overall. Since then, the automaker has commissioned its Scirocco GT24 for ‘Ring duty, but since 2011 marks the 35th anniversary of the infamous GTI hot hatch, VW decided that an all-new Golf-based car was in order.