Originally designed for the French asphalt championship, the Xsara had no turbo, but its two-litre naturally aspirated engine revved up to 10,500rpm and was as powerful as the WRC cars at the time.
Despite no four-wheel drive, thanks to traction control the Xsara was rapid on dry asphalt. And, with a minimum weight of 960 kilograms, the Kit Cars were also 270 kilos lighter than their WRC counterparts - and therefore could brake much later.
Spain’s sweeping Tarmac tests were the perfect playground for Bugalski and his steed.
Pitched against big-name World Rally Car manufacturers including Subaru, Mitsubishi, Ford and Toyota, by the end of the first day in Spain, Citroëns were one-two - with local ace Jesús Puras a few seconds clear of Frenchman Bugalski.
WRC SEASON REVIEW 1999
While the lead car retired with electrical issues on the second morning, the second Xsara stretched its legs and built up a lead of nearly 20 seconds. By the finish ramp a day later, its winning margin was half a minute over Didier Auriol’s Corolla WRC.
The Xsara was, if anything, even more suited to the twisty island roads of Corsica. Sure enough, two weeks later, Buglalski was standing atop the podium once again - this time with Puras just behind.
Unsurprisingly, the WRC teams were up in arms against the cherry-pickers from Versailles. How could this car come along and beat what was supposed to be the top formula?
Only at the end of the year did things calm down. The Kit Cars were no longer capable of winning outright from 2000 onwards thanks to 50 kilograms of mandatory additional weight.
SELECT YOUR FIVE FAVOURITE MOMENTS BELOW
Sections of this story are excerpts from 'WRC 50, The Story of the World Rally Championship 1973-2022', written by Markus Stier. Purchase your copy here.
Cover Photo: © McKlein