2017 Citroen C3 WRC
Bringing back the French speed bubbleby Jonathan Lopez, on
The thrills and spills of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship season are just around the corner, with the annual Rallye Monte Carlo slated to kick things off later next month. With the new season arrives a fresh batch of rally warriors, ready and willing to tackle the wilds of one of the most challenging race series on the planet. Rejoining the fray will be French automaker Citroen, an old standby that took a brief hiatus during the 2016 season to devote as much time and resources as possible towards the development of the New C3 WRC racer. The return of Citroen’s gravel-munching stage monster coincides with the release of the non-rally-prepped New C3 street car, which recently dropped cover at this year’s Paris Motor Show. As a follow-up, Citroen Racing revealed its new WRC contender in Abu Dhabi, and per the new FIA regulations for 2017, it’s sporting more power, more wing, less weight, and a new drivetrain outfitted with centrally controlled differential.
The updates are so extensive, the 2017 cars are being labeled as next-gen racers, and when you pair the new regulations with the departure of the ever-dominant Volkswagen team, the question of who will end up grabbing the title in 2017 is still very much a matter of debate.
Many observers are pointing to Citroen as a possible new favorite. With the vastly upgraded C3 WRC now on the table, things are looking up for the automaker, especially when you consider its long resume of successes in rally racing, part of which includes 96 wins and eight manufacturer’s titles in the WRC.
Will Citroen be the brand to beat in 2017? Only time will tell, but for now, read on for all the nitty gritty on the New C3 WRC.
Continue reading to learn more about the Citroen C3 WRC.
2017 Citroen C3 WRC
History And Background
Before we launch into detail on the New C3 WRC and why it could be the new 2017 favorite, it’s important to get a handle on Citroen’s past rally experience to understand what it’s bringing to the table
Citroen got its first big wins racing in the rough stuff in the ‘50s, with more recent competition vehicles like the BX 4TC and Visa 1000 Pistes providing the automaker with the hardcore experience of running in the legendary Group B era of the WRC.
Citroen made its first major effort in the WRC in 2003, and amazingly, secured a 1-2-3 finish in its very first outing, with names like Sebastien Loeb, Colin McRae, and Carlos Sainz helping along the way.
In 1991, Citroen entered the notoriously difficult Paris-Dakar rally, but walked away victorious thanks to driver Ari Vatanen. Citroen then collected another three wins at the Dakar in ’94, ’95, and ’96 with Pierre Lartigue behind the wheel.
Citroen made its first major effort in the WRC in 2003, and amazingly, secured a 1-2-3 finish in its very first outing, with names like Sebastien Loeb, Colin McRae, and Carlos Sainz helping along the way. In 2004, Loeb began his record-breaking streak of nine consecutive title wins at the wheel of a Citroen.
Between 2008 and 2010, Citroen racked up another three title wins, followed by two more in 2011 and 2012 after the introduction of new regulations ushered in for the 2011 season.
Long story short, Citroen’s record in rally racing is impressive. The brand is able to boast 36 wins in cross country rally, including four wins in the harrowing Dakar rally, plus five manufacturers titles in the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup and five cross country rally driver’s titles.
The brand has an even stronger resume in the WRC, where it’s tallied up 96 rally wins, plus eight manufacturer’s titles and nine drivers’ titles.
For a complete breakdown of Citroen’s rally record, scroll down to the press release attached below.
With a history like that, it should come as no surprise that there are some rather lofty expectations for the brand going into 2017. As such, Citroen withdrew from the 2016 WRC season, choosing to instead devote more time and resources towards a strong showing in an upcoming season.
Long story short, Citroen’s record in rally racing is impressive.
According to Yves Matton, Belgian Rally Motorsport Car Racing champion and current general manager at Citroen Racing, the brand’s decision to return to the WRC in 2017 took into account a variety of considerations.
“We were coming to the end of a three-year cycle in the WTCC, just as the brand was preparing to launch a strategically important new product, New C3,” Matton explains. “At the same time, the FIA was in the process of putting together new regulations for the WRC. As the C3 matched the definition perfectly, well, everything just fell into place. This coming together of circumstances will help Citroen make the most of its involvement in motorsport.”
There are some rather lofty expectations for the brand going into 2017.
Citroen began its development of the New C3 rally racer in April of 2015, putting Kris Meeke into the hot seat for its first test drive on a track about a year later.
According to Matton, the new C3 captures the spirit of one of the most iconic (and dangerous) periods of rally racing in recent history – the Group B era. “Thirty years on, fortunately everything has changed, especially in terms of safety,” says Matton. “But the sense that the drivers will need to tame an aggressive, roaring beast is something that we will certainly see next season.” He continued, “There is an extremely spectacular side to this new generation on WRCs,” adding, “I think rallying remained spectacular in terms of the scenery and backdrop of the events, but the cars undoubtedly lacked a wild, crazy side. I think we’ll see that again now.”
Citroen says it’s planning on entering two to four cars for the 2017 season. The driver and co-driver roster includes Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle as the team leaders, followed by Craig Breen and Scott Martin, Stephane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau, and finally, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson.
And although Citroen has a history of performing well on first attempts, the plan for 2017 is collect a few disparate rally wins, with a full-strength push for a championship title in 2018.
Citroen says it tested a large variety of iterations for the C3 WRC’s exterior shape in the wind tunnel, while also utilizing CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) to help guide development. The brand also tapped into experience gleaned from the development of its World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) entry, another series where Citroen has good amount of experience. Part of the process involved the use of a 40-percent model, which had a slew of different shapes grafted on top to find an optimal solution to the problem of going fast. Overall, the new 2017 restrictions allow for more aggressive aero, which means finding as much downforce (and as low drag) as possible is critical to success.
On the outside, the New C3 WRC still uses roughly similar styling as can be found on the street-friendly variant, albeit with crazy-big aerodynamics tacked on top, plus a wider, lower stance. The various wings and downforce makers are created from carbon fiber, while you’ll also find a good number of vents to help keep the hot stuff cool, including airflow for the engine, transmission, and brakes. The whole shebang also underwent extensive stress tests on a variety of surfaces to make sure it was up to the rigors of a stint in the WRC.
On the outside, the New C3 WRC still uses roughly similar styling as can be found on the street-friendly variant, albeit with crazy-big aerodynamics tacked on top, plus a wider, lower stance.
Interestingly, the New C3 WRC is the first Citroen rally car to use a five-door body shell. However, as you can see from the pictures, the rear doors were removed, making this thing essentially a two-door hatchback.
The car is now quite a bit wider than before, with the new 2017 regulations allowing for an increase of 55 mm (2.17 inches) from side to side. Overall width now stands at 1,875 mm (73.8 inches), which means it should be more stable at speed, and provide the area needed for more aggressive wings.
Looking at the pictures, we find Citroen’s new slim headlight design in the top corners (plus double LED daytime running lights), which are connected by a distinctive double chrome bar that underlines the hood and peaks in the middle in a double chevron design.
The front bumper is studded with all kinds of elements to manipulate the air to the driver’s advantage. There’s a new, ultra-wide front splitter to smooth to tear into the atmosphere at speed, plus a quad pairing of canards in the corners to help shove the front axle into the dirt, adding additional grip and reducing understeer. Citroen says it has a few different setups for both gravel and tarmac (the car’s ride height is almost certainly a factor here), plus there are new front intakes to help funnel cooler air to the radiator, intercooler, and brakes. Aiding in the hot air’s escape are vents located on top of the hood (just behind the headlights), and below the front wings. On the roof, we find that characteristic rally scoop to keep the cabin atmosphere as fresh as possible.
The front bumper is studded with all kinds of elements to manipulate the air to the driver’s advantage.
Moving to the side, we find massively flared fenders, which are designed to keep the wheel and tire combo in check when rebounding off the terrain, either during full-throttle powerslides, or coming in for a landing off a mighty crest. Black pillars bisect the windows, lending the car a “floating” roof design and enhancing the angle in which it falls into the hatch. The side view mirrors are placed very far back on the body, almost in the middle of the door. There’s also an offset lower section on the doors that seems to mimic the AirBump feature found on Citroen’s road cars. Hugging the ground are ultra-wide body sills that smooth lateral airflow.
Take a step behind the C3 WRC, and the first thing you’ll notice is the gigantic rear wing mounted on the hatch. This thing simply dominates the rear end (and pretty much the whole car, for that matter), and really demonstrates how important good aero will be for the 2017 season. It features a lower element Citroen has deemed a “shovel,” plus a curvy top element with a more intricate shape. The spoiler is also mounted further towards the rear and it’s a full 50 mm higher than previous Citroen rally cars.
Working our way down, we find more vents, such as those found just behind the rear fender flares and behind the rear wheels, which supposedly help to keep the brakes nice and chilly. Another interesting element are the 3D tail lights, which sport a similar design as the production car, with two inner red rings and a lower clear backup light.
Citroen says it designed the rear bumper specifically to direct the spray of loose material kicked up during snow or gravel events in a speed-appropriate fashion. You’ll also notice the hugely pronounced rear diffuser, above which is a surprisingly small oval exhaust tip mounted right in the center.
Starting with the five-door body shell, Citroen says it worked hard to refine “the car’s layout and ergonomics in order to find the optimum position of the crew, taking into account factors such as weight distribution, visibility and safety.”
While matching weight placement with a driver-friendly seating position are obviously crucial in a top-shelf race car, safety was clearly a point of focus for the Citroen design team. After all, the WRC isn’t exactly the safest sport in the world.
After all, the WRC isn’t exactly the safest sport in the world.
To this end, the C3 WRC was reinforced from head to tail, starting with an extensive roll cage, something that should also help increase body rigidity a bit. The body was also made more crashworthy through additional carbon fiber (Citroen likens the upgrade to “supercharged AirBumps”), while the doors were filled with high-density foam to help absorb the energy from a high-speed side impact. The bucket seats were also installed with protective moldings in the headrests.
Beyond the safety features, we’re expecting a low seating position, all digital instrumentation, an easily accessible handbrake, high-tech intercom system, a fire suppression system, and intakes in the Lexan windows to exchange time cards and let in a little fresh air.
I’ll cut straight to the chase – Citroen is saying the powerplant it mounted in the nose of the New C3 WRC is “the best engine ever designed by Citroen Racing.”
So then, we’re off to a good start. The engine uses an inline four-cylinder design, with 1.6-liters of displacement boosted by a turbo and fueled by direct injection. The block is made from machined aluminum, with precise specs on weight and placement to meet the new regulations.
Speaking of which, the FIA has opened up the rules on engine power, and now allows for intake restrictors up to 36 mm (1.4 inches) in diameter, rather than the 33 mm (1.3 inch) restrictors Citroen was using on its previous engine configurations.
The FIA has opened up the rules on engine specs, and now allows for intake restrictors up to 36 mm (1.4 inches) in diameter, rather than the 33 mm (1.3 inch) restrictors Citroen was using on its previous engine configurations.
The extra air allows for more power, with up to 20-percent high peak output. That puts the muscle at 380 horsepower, while peak torque is set at 295 pound-feet. Accomplishing this feat is a max boost pressure of 2.5 bar (36.3 psi).
Citroen says its engineers managed to get up to speed quickly by applying what was learned from the automaker’s efforts in the WTCC, which just so happened to also be using 36 mm intake restrictors. In addition, Citroen’s partner Total provided a few chemical engineers that supposedly helped to reduce the engine’s internal friction, boosting power and efficiency in the process. Citroen even boasts of “some very radical technological solutions” in this area, but unsurprisingly, doesn’t provide any details. However, it does hint it’ll incorporate the reduced-friction tech in its street cars sometime in the future.
All the power is routed to the ground by way of a new hydraulic, centrally controlled differential and four-wheel drive system. Citroen used this setup previously on the Xsara and C4 WRC, and it permits the front and rear axle to spin at different speeds through variation in the hydraulic pressure of the central clutch, altering torque transfer and improving handling and grip.
Chassis And Handling
As you might imagine, this thing is pretty light, at least compared to your standard road car. Even with a hefty roll cage and extra safety reinforcements, the New C3 WRC is loaded with just 3.1 kg of weight for every horsepower produced, which is a decent improvement compared to the last generation of rally racers (3.8 kg per horsepower). And that means with 380 horsepower, the racer is 1,178 kg (2,597 pounds).
While not incredibly light, the new generation of WRC cars are still lighter than the previous gen by 25 kg (55 pounds), a significant amount at this level of racing.
The Citroen uses a similar structure and body as the road-going variant and previous-gen rally racers, but the new car was modified to help accommodate the new aero, roll cage, transmission tunnel, and subframe supports.
The suspension was also hugely upgraded, with components that were designed by Citroen Racing, including a tilted spring/shock combo for increased travel. The car also has changeable geometry to accommodate either tarmac or gravel events.
Finally, Michelin tires make it all stick.
After sitting out 2016, I’m eager to see what Citroen can do this year. Personally, I’m most eager to see how Meeke will perform. Following yet another dominant season and his fourth consecutive title, Sebastien Ogier is quickly putting together a reputation that’s looking a little like that other Frenchman named Sebastien (you know, Loeb). However, with the withdrawal of Volkswagen from the WRC, and Ogier’s move to Ford and M-Sport, the status quo may indeed see quite the shakeup.
Will see how it plays out. Next stop – Monte Carlo.