Citroen boss Yves Matton has confirmed that Sebastien Loeb Racing could represent the French marque in the WTCC with as many as five cars in 2017.
Citroen's two works entries are set to be joined by Sebastien Loeb Racing's three privateer cars in 2016, before Citroen withdraws its factory effort the following year.
Sebastien Loeb Racing ran two Citroens in 2015, one as a satellite operation of Citroen Racing for Ma Qing Hua, and the other for Moroccan privateer Mehdi Bennani.
Bennani will remain on board for 2016, with Gregoire Demoustier joining the team and the third driver yet to be confirmed.
“2016 will be the first step with three cars run by the team,” noted Matton. “During the first part of next season we’ll see if it works, after that it’ll be a good time to speak with Sebastien about if there is a possibility with some partners to run five cars in 2017.
"For sure there will not be manufacturer involvement, but the cars are there and we can try to find a solution for the cars to stay on the grid in the interests of the promoter, SLR and Citroen."
Matton has ruled out the possibility of a large scale privateer programme, saying the aim was to just have one team running their C-Elysee WTCCs.
However, he confirmed the role could go to another team if SLR choose to move elsewhere in 2017.
“The way we work in the World Rally Championship, we only have one team who is able to sell our cars and parts as we’re not organised within the factory to have a commercial division,” explained Matton.
“So my hope is to do everything with SLR, but we’ll also see if SLR will be organised to support this, and if not we can look for a second team, but for sure my hope is to only [support] one team.”
2016 cutbacks brought on by WRC needs
The manufacturer itself will slim down to just two works cars for Jose Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller next year, with Sebastien Loeb focussing his efforts on a campaign with Peugeot in the FIA Cross Country World Cup.
Matton explained the development of the 2017 World Rally Championship challenger was the key factor in the decision to cut back.
“It’s a difficult target to be again champions [in WRC],” said Matton. “We have to produce a new car, and at the same time we want to keep our titles in touring cars.
"With the same amount of people and constraints you have to make some decisions to try and achieve new targets.
“The first decision was to not be part of the World Rally Championship in 2016. After that the situation in touring cars is also different since we started.
"Now we know the discipline and we will also have some privateers who will run our cars and will win us points for the manufacturers’ championship.
"We think with two drivers and with some privateers we’ll be in a position that we’ll be able to fight for the titles.”
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes