What Citroën needs to consider if it returns to the WRC

Lower costs and greener regulations are a must before the modern-era giant steps back up to Rally1

Esapekka Lappi

Citroën remains the most successful manufacturer in the history of the World Rally Championship, but it requires two very clear things to change if it is to return to competing in the topflight.

Citroën last ran a WRC program back in 2019 when it re-signed then six-time world champion Sébastien Ogier to drive a C3 WRC and brought Esapekka Lappi in from Toyota as his team-mate.

But it proved to be the only full season Ogier has contested since 2013 where he didn’t win the world title.

With Ogier seeking a move to replace the Hyundai-bound Ott Tänak at Toyota, Citroën then spectacularly announced it would be withdrawing from the WRC for 2020 – effectively blaming Ogier for that decision as it stated there was an “absence of a first-class driver available for 2020”.

Sebastien Ogier

Citroën has always maintained some presence in rallying since with the C3 R5, now rebadged the C3 Rally2, and its car currently tops the WRC2 championship standings through Yohan Rossel.

But despite his own personal desires, Didier Clément – now Citroën’s head of customer racing but formerly an ace engineer through the brand’s WRC glory years – has confirmed Citroën currently has no desire to take the step back up to Rally1.

“Citroën Racing has a lot of experience in rallying, in fact more than 20 years,” Clément told DirtFish.

“Rally2 is the right place for us because the challenge is very, very high. It’s a very, very competitive category, top level customer competition.

“It’s a good way to show the knowledge of Citroën Racing and how we are able to build some very, very performant cars.

Yohan Rossel

“We are not able to come back to WRC right now. Cross our fingers for the future but right now WRC is not for us.

“WRC2 is the best place to show the knowledge of this team.”

The future direction of the WRC is currently unclear as the FIA is currently working to nail down the next set of regulations.

Rally1 will continue with hybrid units until at least 2024, and as a ruleset until 2026, but what form the WRC’s top category takes for 2027 is still to be decided.

In an exclusive interview with DirtFish earlier this month, FIA technical director Xavier Mastelan Pinon revealed that three options were on the table in terms of propulsion: biofuel, battery-powered electric or hydrogen.

Sebastien Ogier

But Citroën would need more than just a change in propulsion to be attracted back into the WRC according to Clément.

It needs costs to be lower, and everything to be greener.

“First of all we are not only a single brand,” Clément explained. “We work for Stellantis Group, which has 14 brands.

“In rally it’s still us in the program with Peugeot 208 Rally4, with Opel Corsa Rally4 and e-Corsa as well, with Citroën in Rally2. But in fact it’s not fixed that we are able to work for every brand in rally or on circuit.

“But like you said, we need to decrease the cost of one season. We consider as well, because in fact Stellantis Group is involved in the green attitude, we have to change different things as a regulation.

“For example, some hospitality that you are able to see in WRC make no sense with the current climate in terms of cost, in terms of CO2 emissions and so on.

“We need different things. We need a lower cost and more green aspects.”

Since Citroën quit in 2019, no new manufacturer has joined the WRC.

Toyota, Hyundai and M-Sport Ford have continued to be the only three brands represented as the WRC transitioned from the World Rally Car generation to today’s Rally1 cars, despite one of the targets for Rally1 being to attract new manufacturers.