Tuesday | 10 Dec 2019

2019 review: Citroën

2019 review: Citroën

Birmingham, England. January. Everything was looking rosy for the reds. They’d got one of their favourite Sébastiens back and the season ahead promised the potential of a first title since 2012.

One round in and things looked even better. Sébastien – the Ogier one – won Rallye Monte-Carlo. Two rounds in and team-mate Esapekka Lappi took that pace from the French Alps and turned it into some serious Scandinavian snow speed with second place in Sweden.

Three rounds down and Ogier was on top again, having mastered Rally Mexico.

Finally, it looked like Citroën’s barren years were over. For the first seven rounds of the season, there was a C3 WRC on the podium. And after those seven rounds, Ogier’s title defence was on track – he led the title race from Ott Tänak by two points.

While Ogier sat in P1 at the season midpoint, Lappi was struggling to maintain his surefooted Swedish start. He crashed heavily in Argentina, then biffed the suspension and retired again in Portugal.

In between times, it was becoming increasingly clear the Finn couldn’t find the same sort of comfort he’d taken from the Toyota and Škoda he’d driven previously. Lappi was regularly found at a stage end sporting a hangdog look that spoke all the words he didn’t dare utter.

Eureka moments are rare in top-flight rallying, but when Citroën unearthed an apparently long-since forgotten set-up option, Lappi’s confidence under braking flooded back.

Esapekka Lappi returned to form with second in Finland

Second place in Finland followed, with a return to the runners-up spot two rounds later in Turkey, where only Ogier stood above him.

On paper, it might look like the French firm had turned a corner. It hadn’t. A rare and silly mistake cost Ogier dearly in Italy but it was a lack of speed in Jyväskylä and Germany that hit his hopes of a seventh title hardest.

Germany was Citroën’s low point. Ogier seventh and Lappi eighth, they were blown into the Bostalsee weeds.

Ogier retained a mathematical chance of the championship through a tough run to third in Britain. That effort highlighted where he and the team were. Twelve months earlier, he and co-driver Julien Ingrassia pulled some magic out of the bag to celebrate a stunning win in a Ford Fiesta. This time they had no answer to the pace of Tänak and Thierry Neuville ahead.

The game was up later in October when power steering failure forced Ogier from the lead in Spain. There was more misery for Lappi after a dead engine stopped him in his tracks.

Weeks later Ogier was out of there. Citroën followed soon after.

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