After a yearlong sabbatical in 2016, eight-time manufactures’ champions Citroën are back and rejuvenated ahead of the 2017 WRC season. Gunning for a ninth title, the French outfit is looking to add to its 96 world rally wins with the unveiling of a new car that takes full advantage of the sport’s newly relaxed technical regulations.
Revealed to the world’s media in Abu Dhabi, the all new Citroën C3 WRC heralds the return of Citroën to the sport it dominated for the best part of a decade. As part of a new generation of cars that will be amongst the fastest and most spectacular ever seen on the stages of the World Rally Championship, the C3 WRC pushes the boundaries of rally car design. Harnessing the power of a four-cylinder 1.6 litre engine with a wider turbo restrictor, the 2017 model boasts a boosted 380bhp; that’s around 20 per more than its DS 3 WRC predecessor. While it may be true that each of the 2017 squads possesses a car with similar muscle in the engine room, Citroën could well hold a key advantage when it comes to reliability. Unlike those of its main competitors, the 1.6 lire turbo has already seen competitive action aboard the French brand’s three-time WTCC winning C-Elysée. Now, much of the expertise and knowledge built up competing in the world’s premiere touring car series has been transplanted directly into Citroën ’s rejuvenated WRC program, potentially giving the team the edge over its rivals in the reliability stakes.
The powertrain isn’t the only area to reveal a top to toe overhaul either. The new C3 WRC’s four-wheel drive system has also gone under the knife. Specifically, this sees the return of centrally-controlled hydraulic differential, a component previously used on the championship-winning Xsara and C4 WRC. The package cuts understeer by allowing the front and rear axles to rotate at different speeds, no matter what the surface.
Visually, the 2017 WRC stable is one of the most striking seen since the group B era. As with its contemporaries at Hyundai, Toyota and M-Sport, bristling splitters, protruding diffusers and jutting spoilers pepper the C3 WRC which is now wider and more aerodynamically efficient thanks to new regulations. More pronounced aero features such as a rear diffuser with centrally mounted exhaust pipe, a spectacular rear spoiler and an interchangeable front splitter for both gravel and tarmac events optimise downforce and keep the car glued to the road even at high speeds. Quenching the oxygen-thirsty engine are a pair of air intakes at the front of the car whilst bonnet-mounted air scoops provide much needed cooling to the 1.6 litre turbo engine. Sticking to the rear, the C3 WRC’s bumper has been carefully designed to flush out excess snow and gravel that bogs the car down on loose surface events.
The big reveal comes after an extensive training program in which Citroën ’s new charge has been put through its paces on ten separate test sessions totalling 9,500 kilometres. Experienced Northern Irishman Kris Meeke took to the wheel for the majority of the C3’s development programme and the three-time WRC rally winner will return to head-up Citroën ’s assault on an unprecedented ninth world championship in 2017. Joining the 37 year-old in the Citroën squad will be Ireland’s Craig Breen and young French talent Stéphane Lefebvre. The pair also played their part in the new C3’s testing schedule and both featured on selected rounds of the 2016 championship under the Abu Dhabi team banner. Meanwhile, a fourth driver, long-time Citroën donor and collaborator Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, will saddle up for a drive in the new C3 WRC on a handful of rounds next season.