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CHICAGO – In anticipation of the Golf R32’s arrival in the U.S. this summer, Volkswagen of America Inc. plans to finance a production-based VW GTI Cup racing series and support an awards program for Sports Car Club of America VW competitors.

Volkswagen has a long history of motorsports in terms of racing VW (cars) and supplying engines and components to starter series,” David Goggins, director-communications and marketing, North America, tells Ward’s at the Chicago auto show here.

“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s all about the timing, and we feel the timing is right. We have the R32 back as our performance flagship, and we’re very excited.”

The brand’s flagship hatchback, the fastest Golf ever – with a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h) – is highly coveted by U.S. car enthusiasts but only has been available in Europe in recent years.

The performance car appeared briefly in North America in 2004, when all 5,000 allotted units were sold.

As part of its commitment to SCCA road-car racing, VOA will offer a total of $300,000 in financial support for VW competitors, while the SCCA-sanctioned GTI Cup series will provide VW owners an entree into racing.

The series will feature the GTI Cup racer, which is powered by the same 200-hp 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl. mill found in production GTIs. The car also touts VW’s twin-clutch DSG (direct-shift gearbox). VW says the GTI racecar will be optimized for track performance.

Meanwhile, VW readies for the arrival of the highly anticipated R32, which Goggins says serves as a halo for the VW brand.

“This car is the ultimate expression of everything VW stands for,” he says. “In addition to the number of cars it will sell for us, we’re very excited about the general image for us.”

Volkswagen AG plans to build 5,000 R32s at its Wolfsburg, Germany, plant this year. VOA will import 3,000 units in 2007 and 2,000 in 2008. If demand is great enough, Goggins says VW will consider pulling units from next year’s allotment for sale this year.

To accommodate the number of consumers expected to vie for the R32, VW is implementing a new reservation process.

Beginning this week, current GTI and R32 owners are being notified of a new R32 micro website on vw.com, where prospective R32 owners can complete a purchase-interest form that generates an R32 certificate, VW says.

The first 850 people who present their certificate along with a deposit to an authorized VW dealer will be able to secure the first R32 models to hit the U.S. in August.

bpope@wardsauto.com