Whilst the Mediterranean Island of Sardinia was alive with the sound of WRC cars last weekend, there was something even more ferocious stirring deep in the forest wilderness of Finland.
Ahead of 2017’s sweeping rule changes, Citroën Motorsport has been busy putting its fledgling next generation rally car through its paces on some of Europe toughest off-road terrain. With outings on the rocky trails of southern France and mud-filled tracks of Portugal already under its belt, the latest stop on the testing itinerary sees the forthcoming 2017 machine take flight on the death-defying jumps and lightning fast roads in the rallying heartland of Finland.
Fresh from his stunning victory at Rally Portugal, Citroën’s star man and team leader Kris Meeke joined head test driver Craig Breen in the saddle for the latest round of testing. And where better to fine-tune aerodynamic performance than on WRC’s fastest and arguably most technical event.
Maximum down-force, minimum drag and maximum cooling; that’s the ultimate but elusive recipe for success in motorsport. Next season’s loosening of regulations in world rallying’s premier series will go some way to helping team designers to perfect this most delicate of balancing acts.
Under 2017 specifications, maximum bodywork width will be greater than in previous years, handing team boffins a lot of freedom to adapt and aerodynamically optimise key body parts. Extra air intakes for increased brake cooling and a front-mounted diffuser are two of the most obvious exterior additions to Citroën’s 2017 WRC challenger, whilst the raised and set-back spoiler should dramatically increase its aerodynamic efficiency over the current crop of cars.
The new kit rolled out in Finland comes off the back of extensive wind tunnel testing at Citroën Motorsport’s headquarters in France as well as previous expertise gained from Citroën’s recent WTCC program. All this should help the team’s WRC boys and girls to hone the new generation rally car to perfection.
However, whilst sums and equations are all very well on paper, only real world testing will reveal whether the 2017 Citroën world rally car’s drag-busting equipment can stand up to a full-blown assault from the menacing snow, mud, sand and gravel that lies in wait in the world’s most hostile driving environments.