2011 World Rally Championship
Citroen Racing enters the third dimension!
The entry of the DS3 WRC in the 2011 World Rally Championship will open a new chapter in the history of the French make. The Citroen Total World Rally Team's aim is win its seventh Manufacturer's World Title, and to achieve this it has entered two crews: Sebastien Loeb-Daniel Elena, gunning for their eighth drivers' world title on the trot, and Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia who have been promoted to the works outfit full time after scoring two victories in 2010. Three more Citroen DS3 WRCs will be driven by privateers: Petter Solberg, Kimi Raikkonen and Peter van Merksteijn.
Citroen Racing, which has been involved in top-level world rallying for ten years, is about to give its third World Rally car its debut. After the Xsara and the C4, which racked up three world titles each, the DS3 WRC will make its bow on the world stage in the Swedish Rally (10-13 February). The team directed by Olivier Quesnel has fixed itself an aim as simple as it is ambitious for this key season that represents a turning point in the make's history - retain its Manufacturers' and Drivers' titles!
The Citroen DS3 WRC is a stunning synthesis of Creative Technology that complies with the new regulations drawn up by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The most visible change is its size. The DS3 WRC is more compact than the C4, which gives it much more spectacular behaviour. The revolution continues under the bonnet as the car is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged direct injection 4-cylinder engine designed in-house by Citroen Racing. It is coupled to 4-wheel drive transmission with a manually controlled sequential gearbox and with a constant power sharing system between the front and rear axles.
The Citroen DS3 WRC was unveiled at last year's Paris Motor Show, and it has since undergone multiple test sessions to be ready for a season consisting of thirteen rallies, each one with its own specific characteristics, stretched over a 9-month period. From the polar chill of Sweden to the heat of the Jordanian desert, the World Rally Championship is a huge challenge for men and machines. The technical team managed by Xavier Mestelan-Pinon has reproduced the most extreme conditions during the sessions aimed at testing the reliability of the car and developing its performance.
The Citroen Total World Rally Team that represents the official colours of the make has entered two DS3 WRCs for crews that come from its own nursery, which today consists of the `Citroen Racing Trophies' organized all over Europe. The reigning 7-time world champions Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena can't wait to take on this new challenge. `Seb' and `Danos' hold just about all the records in the WRC, and they will start each round with the aim of winning and adding more laurels to their already-mind-boggling results.
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, who took part in three rallies for the works team in 2010, have been given the no.2 DS3 WRC. The French pairing have already won two world championship rallies, and they must now confirm their ability to associate speed and consistency.
Total continues its long-standing partnership with Citroen as title sponsor of the works team. The DS3 WRCs will also carry the famous Red Bull colours as the company pursues an involvement that began in 2008. Three brands will be back among Citroen's partners, Michelin which will supply tyres for the DS3 WRCs, as well as Facom and Alcon.
Three more DS3 WRCs run by Citroen Racing Technologies will be entered for private crews in 2011. Petter Solberg-Chris Patterson will start all thirteen rounds, Kimi Raikkonen-Kaj Lindstrom will take part in ten rallies while Peter van Merksteijn-Eddy Chevaillier will begin their season at the Portuguese Rally.
Questions to Olivier Quesnel: Citroen Racing Director
"Citroen Racing is one big family"
What's the overall feeling at the start of the coming season? Are you impatient, relaxed or worried?
OQ: "I wouldn't say that we feel particularly relaxed! It's true that I'm looking forward to being in Sweden to find answers to all the questions that we're asking ourselves at the moment. Have we done a good job? Have we missed out on something? We'll only know a part of the answers at the end of the opening stages, but it should be remembered that Sweden is not really representative of the world championship as a whole. We also have to keep a cool head. Citroen Racing is a proven winning machine, and there's no reason why it should go on the blink from one day to the next. I have every confidence in the team's work, but we're very impatient to take the start of the Swedish Rally!"
Do you think you can handle the rivalry between Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier?
OQ: "It'll be easy in Sweden! Both drivers are starting off with a blank score sheet. As was always the case in the past, Citroen is giving them absolutely identical cars. If one sets a better time than the other it's simply because he's quicker. I'm not the kind of guy who puts himself under pressure: I don't have to cope with any rivalry at the moment. What I can tell you is that we all belong to the same family. While the drivers' title is a bit more prestigious and receives more media coverage, the manufacturers' crown has considerable importance for the make. Our two drivers are intelligent guys and they're fully aware of what's at stake for Citroen."
Citroen Racing Technologies is putting three DS3 WRCs at the disposal of private drivers. What's the aim of this?
OQ: "While awaiting the arrival of new manufacturers in the WRC, I think it's Citroen's duty to help improve the appeal of the championship. That's why we're happy with the agreements reached with Petter Solberg, Kimi Raikkonen and Peter van Merksteijn. Citroen Racing's ultimate aim is not to rent out cars, but we're proud to be able to count these drivers as part of our family."
Citroen Racing's activities are not limited to the WRC alone.2010 was marked by the unveiling of the DS3 R3 and the DS3 Racing. What conclusions have you drawn from these launches?
OQ: "The DS3 R3 is the continuation of a long line of cars aimed at privateers. In just a few months it has become the new benchmark in its category. From a sales point of view this has resulted in a much greater number of orders compared to what we expected. We're delighted with the success of the DS3 R3 for which we've provided a showcase by organizing the Citroen Racing Trophies all over Europe. The DS3 Racing has also been a success. The 2000 cars made were all sold in a few days, and we're now thinking about increasing the annual production."
What are the perspectives in these two domains?
"Designing series production sports models is a new activity for Citroen Racing, and it provides the make with fresh perspectives by opening up new markets. Boosted by the success of the DS3 Racing, we're thinking about adapting other models in the DS range. Concerning the competition/client department we're interested in a possible `FIA R4' set of regulations, which will help to develop R3-type cars with 4-wheel drive. It would be a fantastic tool for training young drivers."
The `FFSA Rallye Jeunes' operation for detecting and training young hopefuls has often been put forward as a benchmark for this type of initiative. Today, Citroen has announced a partnership with the French Motor Sports Federation to revive this scheme. Why?
OQ: "I think it's a totally logical association. By entering Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier in the World Rally Championship, Citroen is making young French people dream as they thrill to their feats. With `Rallye Jeunes', a concept developed by the FFSA, we're going to provide them with the opportunity to touch this dream with their fingers by giving them the chance to prove themselves at the wheel of a DS3. For the most gifted the path is already laid out right up to the top. I'd also add that `Rallye Jeunes' is a fantastic marketing operation, as it will enable thousands of youngsters to go to the Citroen dealerships and discover our make's world."
Can you give some more information about the conditions?
OQ: "The sporting process is decided by the FFSA: the participants must be between 18 and 25 years of age. Six regional competitions in France will decide the best drivers who will qualify for a national final. The official launch of the operation should take place at the 2011 French Rally, and the two winners will be awarded a 6-race programme in the French Rally Championship."
Questions to Xavier Mestelan-Pinon, Citroen Racing technical manager
"Rack up the kilometres"
What's happened since the unveiling of the Citroen DS3 WRC at the Paris Motor Show last October?
XMP: "Our priority has been to rack up the kilometres in testing in all kinds of conditions. Thanks to the construction of a second DS3 WRC for test purposes we've been able to organize a session every fortnight. These tests have allowed us to work on reliability, and also to get to know the car, how it reacts to setup changes etc. As time passed we froze the technical definition of the car. These past few weeks we've been concentrating on what might look like details, but which aren't quite the opposite, in fact - like the positioning of the safety equipment and the FIA management systems, the installation of the crews and training them how work on the car outside the service parks. Our main difficulty has been trying to find hot weather conditions to work in: we managed to find some heat in the south of Europe."
Have you any worries about the car's reliability?
XMP: "I think we've done a pretty good job considering the time we've had at our disposal to bring this project to fruition. Obviously, risks exist. Don't forget that the DS3 WRC is a completely new car, unlike the C4 which was derived from the Xsara."
The most recent change was the tyres. What impact has this had on the development of the car?
XMP: "As Michelin has been one of Citroen's historic partners, first of all I have to say how delighted I am to be working with this manufacturer again and a part of its engineering team. This enthusiasm in no way detracts from how satisfied we feel about the three years we spent with our previous partner. The profile of the Michelin tyres is fundamentally different, so we`ve had to revise quite a few things in the area of the geometry of the running gear, the stiffness of the suspension, camber, anti-roll bars etc. The Michelin tyres are quick and they behave very precisely, particularly on asphalt."
Do you think that these new world rally cars will be more spectacular than the previous ones?
XMP: "The smaller size will reduce the inertia. With no central differential, the cars will move about more under braking, even on asphalt. The engine will rev higher and make more noise. The absence of the semi-automatic gear selection will oblige the drivers to battle a bit more with the steering wheel. I'd say that these cars will be more fun to watch for the spectators."
Questions to Sebastien Loeb
"This season is a new challenge"
How does it feel to drive the Citroen DS3 WRC?
SL: "The car feels very different to the C4. The DS3's shorter and so it's more agile in the tight corners, but it's also twitchier in the faster sections. Overall we're going to have to do more work behind the steering wheel for several reasons: the behaviour of the car caused by its size, the lack of the central differential which shared out the traction between the front and the rear, the return to mechanical gear selection, which means we'll have to let go of the wheel."
Are you happy with the work done during the winter break?
SL: "I think the team's done a good job, but we haven't achieved the same level of development on all types of terrain. We've spent a lot of time on gravel as it's the type of surface we'll race on most frequently in the world championship. I reckon we`ve still got a lot of progress to make on snow, but it's difficult to calculate as we haven't really got a basis for comparison given the way the new regulations have radically modified the cars' behaviour."
What do you think of the new regulations? Are they good for the drivers?
SL: "Yes, the car's nice to drive. The performance of the engine means you can really get the best out of the chassis. Of course as always, we'd like more power but I think the new WRCs will be very spectacular. As a driver you have to have the right feel to optimize the trajectories to carry the highest possible speed through the corners."
What does this season represent for you?
SL: "It's a new challenge with far more unknown factors than in previous years. Our rivals have developed their cars and we'll have to wait for the opening rallies to establish a hierarchy. But even before that I have to be quicker than the guys who have the same car as me. Beating Sebastien Ogier and Petter Solberg will be a tough challenge! I think it'll be a difficult season, but that only serves to boost my motivation even more!"
Questions to Sebastien Ogier
"I can't wait to fight against the stop watch"
How do you feel behind the wheel of the Citroen DS3 WRC?
SO: "Like Seb I find that the more compact size of the DS3 has both advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of terrain. As the engine has less torque than what we've been used to, you have to keep the revs up all the time, a bit like with a normally aspirated engine. Because of the return to mechanical gear selection, the changes will be a bit slower and the driver will have to work harder. It won't pose problems in normal conditions, but could become tiring when it's very hot or at the end of long stages."
Are you satisfied with the work that's been done during the break?
SO: "I've been very impressed by the team's capacity for work as we've done a lot of testing since the end of last season. I reckon the time's been used well. I can't wait to be at the start of the Swedish Rally to fight against the stop watch."
Do you think the new regulations are a good thing for the World Rally Championship?
SO: "The aim is to attract new manufacturers. This year a third make will join in, and that's positive for everybody beginning with the spectators. I think that these new cars will be very spectacular with more sliding about and higher-revving engines. There's no doubt that it'll be at least as impressive as in previous years."
What are your aims in your first full season in the Citroen Total World Rally Team?
SO: "There are so many unknown factors that it's difficult to give a precise aim. The results of the Swedish Rally won't really provide a clear picture of the championship hierarchy. We'll know more about it after three or four rounds. Where we're concerned we won't be starting the first event in an overambitious frame of mind. So far we've only raced in two winter rallies, and it'll be difficult to compete on an equal footing with the Scandinavian drivers. Even if it's a long term objective I'm not obsessed by winning the world title. On the other hand, I want to score points in each rally, be among the front-runners and gain more experience in the WRC."
Questions to Frederic Bertrand,
Citroen Racing client/competition manager
"The Citroen Racing Trophy will be held in 10 European countries"
After two very successful years, is the Citroen Racing Trophy ready for another season?
FB: "Since it began in 2009 the Citroen Racing Trophy has continued to attract newcomers with over seventy crews entered last year. The concept is very much appreciated as it allows amateur and professional drivers to compete in a real racing car at a reasonable price, and the fact that they can win bonuses depending on their results is very much appreciated. This season the Citroen Racing Trophy will be held again in ten European countries with the C2R2 MAXs and also the new DS3 R3 which has already made people sit up and take notice during its various appearance in 2010."
In fact, last year the CS3 R3's performance was a major talking point. How will it be integrated into the Citroen Racing Trophy?
FB: "In 2010 the DS3 R3 raced in several events, each one of which had a particular specificity. The aim was to test the car in different conditions and also assess its potential in a real-life environment. The results were very positive as the DS3 R3 won its category on five occasions, and finished on the podium in the overall classification in the `Rallye du Valais' in extreme conditions. So it's ready to compete in the Citroen Racing Trophy and we've already received several orders. The fact that eleven DS3 R3s are taking part in the Monte Carlo Rally is ample proof of its success."
You've just put a specific Citroen Racing boutique website on line: boutique.citroenracing.com/. Can you tell us what it's for?
FB: "By creating this site our aim is to provide a good back-up service for our clients as well as for all those who need information about accessories, clothing and mechanical parts. Apart from the possibility of on-line orders, users can also access the current Client/Competition news, in addition to the various documents and assembly instructions in just a few clicks."