Bringing back the French speed bubble

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
  • Year:
    2017
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History And Background

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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.

Exterior

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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.

Interior

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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.

Drivetrain

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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

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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.

Conclusion

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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.

  • Leave it
    • * Was the 2016 hiatus worth it?
    • * Can Meeke perform?
    • * Will Ogier break his streak?

Press Release

One month before the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship gets underway at Rallye Monte Carlo, Citroën Racing officially unveils its C3 WRC in Abu Dhabi. Complying with the new FIA regulations, which sees the introduction of a new generation of World Rally Cars, the C3 WRC heralds the return of Citroën, with eight manufacturers’ titles and no fewer than 96 wins to the brand’s name. For the 2017 season, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT will enter between two and four C3 WRCs for its crews; Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle, Craig Breen/Scott Martin, Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau and Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson.

A NEW CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF CITROËN RACING

Since it was founded in 1919, Citroën has always impressed with its capacity to tackle and pull off bold, sporting challenges. In the 1950s, the brand claimed its first major victories in rallying. Whilst never achieving the success they deserved, the Visa 1000 Pistes and the BX 4TC – both compliant with the famous Group B regulations – ensured rallying became hard-wired in Citroën’s DNA from the start of the 1980s.

Kings of the desert

In 1989, the former racing department was renamed Citroën Sport and took up a sizeable challenge, to win the Paris-Dakar Rally. The brand enjoyed success right from the word go and on its first attempt in 1991, won the rally with Ari Vatanen. Three further victories, secured by Pierre Lartigue, would follow in 1994, 1995 and 1996. Kings of the desert, the ZX Grand Raids won 36 out of their 42 races, and were five-time winners of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup.

The road to the WRC

The outline of a WRC programme began to take shape with the Xsara Kit-Car, as Philippe Bugalski beat a host of World Rally Cars to win the 1999 Rally Catalunya and Tour de Corse. The ’Red Army’ then decided to move up a gear and the new Xsara WRC won the 2001 Tour de Corse driven by Jesus Puras. After spending the 2002 season preparing its entry, Citroën began its first full campaign in 2003.

The team made an incredible start, with a one-two-three for Loeb, McRae and Sainz at Rallye
Monte Carlo. Citroën won its first Manufacturers’ World Championship at the end of the season, successfully defending the title for the next two years. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena began their incredible series of nine consecutive world titles in 2004.

At the end of the 2005 season, Citroën decided to put its sporting commitment on hold for a year, whilst it developed the C4 WRC. This new car would enable the brand to add another three titles to its competitive record between 2008 and 2010. 2011 saw the introduction of a new generation of World Rally Cars. The DS 3 was chosen to keep the winning run going and it did just that, with two more Manufacturers’ titles in 2011 and 2012.

Off on another world tour

Whilst continuing to compete in the WRC, with lesser ambitions, Citroën Racing took up a new challenge when it decided to enter the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC). Once again, the brand was incredibly successful and in the space of three years, the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs won 50 races from 69 starts. Citroën and José María López won three consecutive world titles.

As this on-track adventure ends, Citroën returns to the WRC with New C3, a symbol of the brand’s commercial offensive. A new chapter is about to begin.

CITROËN RACING’S KEY FIGURES
Cross Country Rallying (1990-1997)

36 wins from 42 races, including 4 victories in the Dakar Rally
25 wins for Pierre Lartigue, 10 for Ari Vatanen and 1 for Timo Salonen
5 Manufacturers’ titles in the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup (1993 to 1997)
5 Drivers’ titles; Pierre Lartigue from 1993 to 1996 and Ari Vatanen in 1997

WRC (1999-2016)

96 wins, including 11 in Germany, 10 in Argentina, 9 in Spain and 7 in Monte Carlo
238 podium finishes
1,484 stage wins
78 wins for Sébastien Loeb, 7 for Sébastien Ogier, 3 for Kris Meeke, 2 for Carlos Sainz and Philippe Bugalski, 1 for Dani Sordo, Mikko Hirvonen, François Duval and Jesus Puras
36 wins for the C4 WRC, 32 for the Xsara WRC, 26 for the DS 3 WRC and 2 for the Xsara Kit-Car
Records; rally wins for a Manufacturer (96) and consecutive podium finishes (38 from 2008 Rally Mexico to 2010 Wales Rally GB)
8 Manufacturers’ titles in the FIA World Rally Championship (2003 to 2005 and 2008 to 2012)
9 Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ titles for Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (2004 to 2012)

WTCC (2014-2016)

31 pole positions from 35 qualifying sessions
50 wins, 45 fastest race laps and 119 podium finishes in 69 races
28 wins for José María López, 11 for Yvan Muller, 6 for Sébastien Loeb, 2 each for Ma Qing Hua and Mehdi Bennani, 1 for Tom Chilton
3 Manufacturers’ titles in the FIA World Touring Car Championship (2014 to 2016)
3 Drivers’ titles in the FIA World Touring Car Championship for José María López (2014 to 2016)

YVES MATTON: "WIN RACES IN 2017 AND THEN GO FOR THE WORLD TITLES IN 2018"

How did Citroën’s return to the WRC come about?

"The decision stemmed from several factors. 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. 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 Citroën make the most of its involvement in motorsport."

What are the challenges posed by the new regulations?

"At first glance, you could easily think that this is just a major upgrade to the previous regulations.
But it’s much more than that; the increase in engine power, the growing influence of aerodynamics and the return of the centrally controlled differential are the three major changes. We have applied our unique expertise on these three points, derived from our previous World Rally Cars and our recent experience in track racing. That has helped us to go quicker than we might otherwise have been able and above all, to go further in our thinking."

How do you assess the work done since the start of the project?

“It’s fairly staggering. The timing was such that our development schedule was more compact than on any of our previous programmes. Even with our substantial experience, we couldn’t afford to lose any time in designing and developing the car. The team’s know-how ensured we were able to rack up the miles without any serious issues. Without this expertise, we would have been unable to stick to the schedule."

Do you see any group B traits in the Citroën C3 WRC?

"The C3 WRC certainly recalls the cars that enthralled a generation of rally enthusiasts, including me. Thirty years on, fortunately everything has changed, especially in terms of safety. But the sense that the drivers will need to tame an aggressive, roaring beast is something that we will certainly see next season. When I saw Kris Meeke drive the car for the first time in testing, I said to myself that we had achieved our goal. There is an extremely spectacular side to this new generation of WRCs."

Can these cars give new impetus to the WRC?

"The previous WRCs were often criticised for lacking aggressiveness at certain points. 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. I hope that the changes will stimulate interest among younger fans and will have a positive effect on the championship."

What role has Kris Meeke played in the development of the Citroën C3 WRC?

"In a word, vital. We needed a leader, who had plenty of technical experience and knowledge in terms of development. Kris has been developing racing cars for the PSA Group for more than ten years. He is a trained engineer and that means he has been able to provide detailed analysis at certain points. He is undoubtedly one of the main reasons we were able to stick to the schedule and meet our goals."

Why did you choose Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre?

"To meet our first goal, which is to win rallies in normal racing conditions in 2017, we already had Kris under contract. He showed throughout the 2016 season that he is capable of fighting for victory on every surface. For the other crews, there were then two ways we could go. We could either go for an experienced driver with established pace, who might challenge Kris for the role of team leader. Or we could proceed in line with the vision of the brand, which is to have a different approach that puts faith in talented young drivers. Having said that, it’s also an approach that is entirely consistent with what Citroën Racing has been doing for more than twenty years. Craig and Stéphane’s results have shown that we have two very talented, promising drivers in our stable. So we decided to give them their chance. In the medium term, they are the future of the WRC."

What are your ambitions for the next few seasons?

"In 2017, we want to win races in normal conditions, by beating our competitors. And then in 2018, our goal is to bring home at least one of the world titles."

Does Citroën’s history in the WRC mean there is added pressure?

"When I read certain comments, I note that a lot of people are expecting the C3 WRC to be fast right from the word go. So we certainly have pressure on our shoulders. The team is perhaps not as
well-established in this environment as before and we’ll need some time to settle back in. As ever, we won’t be getting carried away. We’ll treat this challenge with the respect it deserves."

CITROËN C3 WRC: PACKED WITH THE EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE OF A TEAM THAT HAS WON SIXTEEN WORLD TITLES

Since they first appeared in 1997, World Rally Cars have regularly undergone changes to their definition, in order to manage performance or control costs. The most significant changes were made ahead of the 2011 season with more compact models with 1.6 litre direct injection turbo engines.

The 2017 season sees the introduction of a new generation of cars, designed to be the fastest and most spectacular ever seen on the stages of the World Championship.

In all areas, the Citroën C3 WRC has pushed back the boundaries of what has been done in the past. For example, the power-to-weight ratio of the Citroën Racing engineers’ latest creation is 3.1kg/bhp, compared with 3.8 for its predecessor. Since improved efficiency is not only a matter of figures, the dramatic technological changes can also be seen in the wider wings, the substantial aerodynamic features and the four-wheel drive that now comes with a centrally controlled differential.

One objective: the 2017 Rallye Monte Carlo

In the design office, evaluation of the new regulations and the structural design of New Citroën C3 began in April 2015. This work was stepped up and specified once the programme was given the go ahead by senior management at the PSA Group. On 19 November 2015, when the sporting future of Citroën was announced, the C3 WRC already existed virtually speaking, at least, on the CAD workstations.

Very quickly, work began on building the first prototype in the nearby workshops. On 11 April 2016, Kris Meeke drove the car on its first outing at the Versailles-Satory track.

Shortly afterwards, the team set off for the south of France, where the first test session was held on the gravel roads around Château Lastours. The car was decorated with a special "camouflage" livery, designed to hide the styling features of New Citroën C3, which had yet to be unveiled at that point.

Development work continued on a variety of surfaces, with around four to five days of testing each month, as the team looked for both reliability and performance. At the end of June, a key stage was reached with the delivery of a second car, dedicated to tarmac testing.

Behind the scenes, work in the design office continued, introducing new upgrades. Several wind tunnel sessions were also held, before the shape of the bodywork was finalised.

Confirmed as a works driver for Citroën Racing until 2018, Kris Meeke conducted the majority of the testing. In each session, his work was corroborated by Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre, who took over driving duties from the Northern Irishman on the final day of the tests.

Altogether, the Citroën C3 WRC completed ten test sessions and a total of 9,500 kilometres.

The final, critical stage before the car’s competitive debut, homologation by the FIA, was completed on 13 December 2016.

"As is often the case in motorsport, we worked to a very tight schedule during the design and development of the car. When we began testing, we were pleased to see that the car was well designed. There were no major issues and the drivers said they were delighted with the car’s handling. Now that it’s time to measure ourselves against the competition, we feel that we have worked very well, but it’s impossible to be confident. Making such big changes to the regulations means that everyone has been dealt a new hand, so we are humble against our rivals." Laurent Fregosi, Technical Director.

The best engine ever designed by Citroën Racing

Citroën Racing has been developing and building its own engines since 2010, in line with the FIA Global Racing Engine (GRE) regulations. The architecture, based on a four-cylinder 1.6 litre direct injection turbo engine, allows manufacturers to use their technology across several championships.

For example, Citroën used its experience in the WRC to design the engine of the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC. And now, it’s the information and knowledge acquired whilst spending three seasons competing on the world’s racetracks that has been used to design the engine of the Citroën C3 WRC.

As with its two previous iterations, the Citroën Racing engine has been built using a machined, aluminium cylinder block. This finely crafted piece of metalwork must meet strict rules as regards minimum weight and the height of its centre of gravity.

The surge in performance expected in 2017 can be explained by one main factor: the wider turbo restrictor, which has increased from 33mm to 36mm. The power has been boosted by around 20% to 380bhp. However, the turbo pressure limit of 2.5 bars means that the torque remains relatively stable at about 400Nm.

Since a 36mm restrictor was already in use on the WTCC engine, the Citroën Racing engine specialists were able to get to grips quickly and confidently with the increased output and internal load. This head start has been used to study the slightest details in even greater depth. Alongside the chemical engineers from Total, in-depth work on reducing friction has helped to improve the engine’s output and efficiency.

More than ever before, reliability was a key concern for the engineers. With a quota of three engines per car for the season, the specification requirements are similar to those of the WTCC, where the powertrain has to last fewer kilometres, but at a higher speed.

"I think it is safe to say that the Citroën C3 WRC has the most acomplished engine we have ever built. Whilst competing in the WTCC, we were able to take a step back from our experience in rallying and that enabled us to tackle this challenge with a new outlook. The framework of the GRE regulations is strict, but it provides sufficient freedom for new solutions to be devised. We have very boldly opted for some very radical technological solutions, which I obviously won’t detail here. But we’re proud of the work we have done, especially on reducing friction. It’s all the more pleasing that these advances will one day be rolled out on our production models, across the entire Citroën range." Patrice Davesne, Engine Manager

Increased chassis efficiency on all surfaces

The structural design of the Citroën C3 WRC is similar to that of its predecessors. The production body shell has been cut to accommodate the composite fibre rear spoiler, the roll cage, the transmission tunnel and the subframe supporting the chassis and suspension systems.

The C3 WRC is Citroën’s first World Rally Car to be based on a five-door silhoutte. The rear doors have been taken out, but this configuration nonetheless required substantial work on 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.

This final point remains a central concern for Citroën Racing’s engineers and FIA experts alike.
There have been no compromises regarding improving the protection of the crew, especially in the event of a side impact. The doors, for example, have now been reinforced with an additional composite fibre layer. They are a bit like a supercharged version of the AirBumps®. The interior of the doors are lined with a high-density foam that is designed to absorb energy, whilst the headrests of the bucket seats now come with new protective mouldings.

In terms of details, the 2017 regulations have added freedom in a number of areas. The most visible of these is the increase in maximum width, which has risen to 1,875mm (+55mm), providing more stable handling and new aerodynamic options.

A key component regarding traction is the suspension, and this area has undergone some substantial changes. Designed and built by Citroën Racing, the spring-shock absorbers are now tilted to increase travel. Among the major innovations introduced on the C3 WRC, the suspension geometry will be different between the car’s tarmac and gravel versions.

The four-wheel drive has also undergone a major change, with the return of centrally-controlled hydraulic differential. This system – used on the Xsara and C4 WRC – allows the front and rear axles to rotate at different speeds. By controlling the hydraulic pressure in the central clutch, it is therefore possible to transfer torque from one axle to the other in order to offset understeer and reduce any slippage.

A muscular design

The Citroën C3 WRC’s muscular and unique design is immediately striking. Like the production of New C3, the WRC bristles with freshness end energy, backed by rugged strength.

The aerodynamic changes, made possible by the less restrictive regulations, actively contribute to the performance of the car. The downforce generated by the aerodynamic features help to increase the stability of the car at high speeds, whilst the air vents provide cooling for the engine, the transmission and the brakes.

Before settling on the final bodywork design, several versions were tested, as evident by the range of photographs taken over previous months.

The high-standing front end is strong and compelling, giving a powerful impression of robustness with a horizontally balanced outline right through from the middle. It also features Citroën’s characteristic
two-tier front light signature, the double chrome bar underlining the chevrons that extends out to the LED daytime running lights. The centrepiece of the car’s aerodynamic performance, the bumper incorporates a splitter and winglets, which generate downforce and reduce understeer. The lower part is different on the tarmac and gravel versions. The air intakes supply cool air to the radiator, the turbo intercooler and the brakes. Hot air is expelled by the air scoops located on the bonnet and at the bottom of the front wings.

Looking at the side, the first detail you notice is the floating roof held by the black windscreen pillars. The Citroën C3 WRC’s protective function is shown clearly by the balanced proportion between body panels and glazed surfaces. Lower down, the vehicle stands out thanks to the wide body sills that channel the lateral flow of air. The air vents located on the rear doors are used to cool the brakes and similar to the front, hot air is expelled via the bottom of the wings.

The rear bumper has been carefully designed to boost the expulsion of gravel and snow on loose surfaces. These aerodynamic forms are echoed in the 3D rear lights, which lend a unique, high-tech identity to New Citroën C3. Crowned by the centrally-positioned exhaust pipe, the rear diffuser provides even further downforce by expelling the flow of air that passes underneath the car.

Lastly, a spectacular rear spoiler completes the aerodynamic system. It consists of a lower "shovel" and a more complex upper level. For increased efficiency, the spoiler assembly is set back and raised by 50mm compared with the previous regulations.

"The experience acquired with the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC has meant we didn’t have to start from scratch with this car. We tested solutions using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and then in the wind tunnel with a 40% mock-up. The results led us to devise new shapes, which we tested again several times. At the same time, we had to try parts on the car, to ensure they would last on the roughest surfaces. It’s a never-ending process. With more time, we would undoubtedly have made further progress and found even more performance." Laurent Fregosi, Technical Director

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