THE CITROËN C3 WRC HEADS FOR THE HILLS!
After two winter rallies and one on gravel, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT is back on tarmac for its home round of the World Rally Championship.
The first full tarmac rally of the season, the Tour de Corse has often been dominated by specialists of the surface. Its technically-demanding stages call for finesse, precision and even a little virtuosity behind the wheel in order to get the absolute maximum from the tyres, without ruining them in the process. With Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle, who led for long periods in last year’s rally, and Sébastien Loeb – Daniel Elena, who have claimed four (2005 to 2008) of the brand’s six wins at the event during its inclusion in the WRC, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT is particularly well equipped to challenge at this, the 61st edition of the classic island race. The team has genuine hopes of winning in Corsica.
Until he retired last year, Kris Meeke had won three out of the five stages contested up to that point. Since then, he has also claimed a magnificent win at the 2017 Rally de Catalunya, which suggests that his C3 WRC is very fast on tarmac and that he is at one with the car on this surface. However, Sébastien Loeb will not be expecting to be left out. After his spectacular comeback last month at Rally Mexico, the nine-time World Rally Champion – whose last outing on full tarmac in the WRC goes back to the Rallye de France-Alsace 2013 – returns to Corsica and a surface that he loves driving on, and on which he has often enjoyed success in the past. He certainly didn’t need any time to get used to the surface again during the test session held in Corsica last week. The test also enabled the team to assess its range of set-up options for the various types of surface encountered on the island’s atypical roads.
Having not competed in Corsica since 2008, Sébastien’s main problem, however, will be refamiliarising himself with all the stages. In contrast, Kris Meeke and the other championship regulars are already familiar with around thirty-six percent of the itinerary, namely the opening stage, La Porta – Valle di Rostino (49.03km), Novella (17.39km) and around seven kilometres on Vero – Sarrola – Carcopino (55.17km), Sunday’s heavyweight challenge. One of the special features of this year’s Tour de Corse is the fact that some sixty-three percent of the stages has been changed, with the introduction of brand new speed tests in Cap Corse and Désert des Agriates, located to the north and west of Bastia respectively. And with the rally held in early April on the hilly Mediterranean island, the weather may also have a role to play…
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“Following two consecutive podium finishes in Sweden and in Mexico, we are going to pull out all the stops in Corsica to secure our first win of the year. In any case, we have given ourselves every chance with a four-day test session in Corsica, which proved to be very positive. Having said all that, it’s still a race – and one of the toughest on the WRC calendar at that – with many variables and uncertainties, especially as regards the weather at this time of year. But Kris and Paul proved last year that they have the ability to win here, and after their masterful display in Mexico, I don’t see how Sébastien and Daniel won’t be in the mix, especially at an event where they have been always been impressive in the past.”
12 timed stages covering a total of 333.48 km
55.17 km for Vero – Sarrola – Carcopino, the longest stage of the rally
6 overall wins secured by Citroën at the Tour de Corse in the WRC: Philippe Bugalski in 1999 (Xsara Kit-Car), Jesus Puras in 2001 (Xsara WRC), Sébastien Loeb in 2005 and 2006 (Xsara WRC), 2007 and 2008 (C4 WRC)
63.75 % of the competitive distance is new compared with 2017