Citroën Racing's new C3 R5 challenger will undergo its first development tests on gravel this week, in readiness for its competitive WRC debut in 2018.
The car, which started to be penned more than a year ago and is aimed at the customer market, will supersede the French manufacturer's DS 3 R5 that enjoyed moderate success in the WRC 2 category.
Works drivers Stéphane Lefebvre and Craig Breen will both take part in the car's first gravel test, along with Yoann Bonato who is currently leading the French Rally Championship.
Citroën Racing team principal, Yves Matton, hopes his squad's all-new C3 R5 will "set new standards" in WRC 2 and will take the fight to Skoda and Ford – the manufacturers that are currently setting the pace in the category.
Citroën has revealed that many of the car's mechanical components have been successfully put through their paces on various test mules during 2017 and that the specification of the final car is almost complete.
"For the first outing of the full car, we are already pretty close to the definition that will be offered to customers," Pierre Budar, development director, explained. "The sessions are being held on gravel, on sufficiently varied road surfaces to test the car's robustness and begin fine-tuning the basic set-up."
The manufacturer says there are similarities between the new C3 R5 and the C3 WRC that is currently competing at the top of the sport. The roll cages in both cars have been designed by the same engineer, while other technical solutions have been used across both cars – although they have been adapted to meet the R5 regulations and small-scale production requirements.
"In order to create an entirely new product, we used all of Citroën Racing's experience in the WRC, adding contributions from leading technical suppliers such as Sadev for the transmission and Reiger for the suspension systems," Matton said.
The WRC 2 category has been a big hit since it was introduced in 2013, providing a competitive stage for aspiring drivers to prove their mettle before graduating to the top-level WRC category. R5 cars feature four-wheel drive transmissions and 1.6-litre direct injection turbo engines that generate around 280bhp.
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