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Citroen will focus on 2017 return to WRC

By raccars Published

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Citroen has decided to put its WRC rally ambitions on hold in 2016 and come back stronger a year later.

When the World Rally Championship (WRC) takes place next year, Citroen will be missing in action. And thankfully this is not because it is retiring from the sport altogether, but rather because it is going back to the drawing board to spend the next 12 months developing a car which is worthy of competing in 2017’s event, according to AutoCar.

In fact, the French manufacturer is so committed to rally that it is has decided to realign its motorsport division and stop participating in the World Touring Car Championship once it has finished the season in 2016. This will allow it to focus all of its resources and efforts on the task of returning to WRC in 2017 and ideally coming out on top, albeit at the expense of its participation in the FIA’s WTCC.

Driver reshuffle

Citroen has enjoyed a significant level of success on the WRC stage in recent years, with a much of this being attributable to driver Sebastien Loeb who has taken the title nine times and then went on to participate in the firm’s touring car activities. However, while he is returning to rallying, Loeb is actually going to take on the daunting Dakar event and will be working with Peugeot instead, which is of course part of the same automotive group as Citroen.

This begs the question as to who exactly will be behind the wheel of the new car developed for the 2017 championships. And in fact at least one current member of the team, driver Mads Ostberg, has already announced his intentions to leave for new pastures. The fate of the other driver on Citroen’s books, Kris Meeke, is not yet certain, suggesting that he is still thinking about whether or not to stay with the firm as it undergoes a year-long hiatus while development of the car continues. No doubt Citroen will be able to attract world-class driving talent to the table given the resources it is committing to WRC and its track record of success.

Rally’s allure explored

Citroen Racing spokesperson Yves Matton explained that his firm is really keen to make a major return to WRC in 2017, especially as changes to the regulations governing the sport will bring new challenges and opportunities to the process of engineering the cars that participate. He also explained that the decision to move away from touring car racing and put the onus on rally success was down to the need for efficiency in terms of resource deployment.

Meanwhile Citroen chief exec Linda Jackson spoke about the importance of rallying as a motor sport, which not only sees drivers pitted against challenging courses in dramatic parts of the world, but also results in car manufacturers being tested at a technical level. And by building a vehicle which is resilient and fast enough to win the WRC title, Citroen will be making a point about the nature of its engineering work to the wider world, not just to rally fanatics.

Jackson went on to point out that rallying is becoming more popular with a global audience, with stages taking place in China during next year’s championship. This should make Citroen's return in 2017 all the more visible. In addition, she said that a fresh selection of Citroen vehicles will be on offer to the public, heightening the relevance of a rallying revival for this popular French manufacturer over the next couple of years.

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