Loeb, Muller and Lopez continue to prepare for the season ahead.
With less than three months to go before the opening round of the World Touring Car Championship (FIA WTCC) in Marrakech on April 12th and 13th, Citroën Racing is intensifying the fine-tuning of its C-Elysée WTCC.
Following the development phase, Sébastien Loeb, José-María López and Yvan Muller are now concentrating on the settings they will use in competition.
Xavier Mestelan-Pinon, Citroën Racing Deputy Team Principal and Technical Director, gives an update on the challenge, which the eight time winning team in the World Rally Championship is about to take on.
Which circuits have you tested at? “Rather than systematically use the same circuits used by the championship, we looked for tracks that are representative of everything we could encounter during the course of a season. We have been to the Hungaroring and Monza, two tracks that couldn’t be more different. At the start of the year, our partner Abu Dhabi gave us the opportunity to run at Yas Marina. We took advantage of warmer temperatures than in Europe, but we also had rain! ”
What were the main lessons learned from the development phase? “With the new FIA WTCC technical regulations, all the parameters change. The 2014 cars are larger, lighter and more powerful… Even a driver as experienced as Yvan Muller lacks reference points! We obviously saw the importance of aerodynamics, but we had no idea just how important it is. We worked a lot in this area, with the use of the CFD, then a few trips to the wind tunnel. The final package has not yet been seen on track, we won’t show it until our last test before the start of the season.”
For sure aerodynamics is not the only area in which you have made progress? “Indeed, each point necessitated complete attention. Take the suspension for example; we began to define the geometry by beginning with what we knew best, the Xsara Kit-Car, a front-wheel drive built for the asphalt. In so far as the speed or the obstacles faced by the two cars are very different, we struggled a little before reaching the required efficiency and reliability. As for the motor, our job was easier. The engine of the C-Elysée WTCC is an evolution of what was conceived for the DS3 WRC and which was used for the fourth season in rally. Certain technologies, like ‘fresh air’, are not as sensitive in circuit racing and we quickly obtained a satisfying result. Even with the extra 50 horsepower, we haven’t experienced any major reliability problems.”
What are the next deadlines? “We have three more tests scheduled before the start of the championship. At one of them, we will run two C-Elysée WTCCs to log a maximum amount of experience – most notably in the area of tyres – and to run Seb, José-María and Yvan. These tests will also allow our driver-engineer duos to cement their relationships. We will also look to validate our work methods, our equipment and everything specific to the category.”
When will the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC be homologated? “We will present it to the FIA in mid-March. After this stage, a certain number of components will be frozen and we will be able to make changes using wildcards, according to the system we know very well from rally. Beyond these regulations, we look to prepare a car that is competitive and reliable from the first race. In eleven weeks, we will run the 7 European rounds of the season. We must be ready at Marrakech!”