Citroen has announced that it will not contest the 2016 World Rally Championship season so it can concentrate on developing its 2017 car.
Significant rules changes comes into effect for 2017, necessitating completely new cars. Though based on the current generation of 1.6-litre, four-wheel-drive superminis, the ’17 cars will be lighter, wider, more dramatic to look at and more powerful.
Citroen has struggled to match the might of Volkswagen since the German marque joined the WRC in 2013, breaking the French squad’s nine-year run of dominance. In the last three seasons, Citroen has only won four rallies, while VW has romped to three Manufacturers’ titles.
Citroen Racing boss Yves Matton said: “With a view to managing our resources efficiently, we have decided to focus all our efforts on designing and developing our new World Rally Car. This is why Citroen will not be competing in the 2016 World Rally Championship as a works team.”
In other words, Citroen feels taking a year out gives it a fighting chance of beating Volkswagen in 2017.
This is not the first time Citroen has stepped back from the WRC to focus on developing a new car. It did so in 2006 to perfect the C4 WRC. Citroen was still represented in the WRC in ’06, factory-supported team Kronos Racing taking on the mantle and winning the Drivers’ title.
It isn’t yet known if Citroen will have a presence in the WRC in 2016. It hasn’t released any of the current DS3 WRC machines for use by privateers in the championship, though a few are used in national series. Its absence also throws the future of current drivers Kris Meeke and Mads Ostberg into doubt.
2017’s push will come at the expense of Citroen’s campaign in the World Touring Car Championship. It has dominated the series since it joined in 2014, taking two Drivers’ and two Manufacturers’ crowns. It will scale back its efforts next season, running just two cars for Jose Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller, who hold six titles between them. Sebastien Loeb Racing is expected to continue running at least one privateer entry.
Citroen CEO Linda Jackson said: “Rallying is a fascinating sport, which tests the performance, reliability and solidity of the cars and drivers in some magnificent settings. The category is taking off again, with increasingly widespread live television coverage and the arrival of China on the calendar in 2016.
“In 2017, the appearance of a new generation of cars will coincide with our renewed involvement. Everything will therefore be in place for us to write a new chapter in the brand’s history. Given Citroen’s rich heritage, this challenge had to be ambitious with new objectives that will motivate the team and ensure continual success.”
Citroen also announced that nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb is parting company with the manufacturer after 15 years. He stays within the PSA Group, however, switching to a cross country rally campaign with Peugeot, starting on the Dakar Rally in January.
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By Only Motors