Citroën Racing has begun adapting its troublesome C3 World Rally Car to Andreas Mikkelsen.
The Norwegian replaces Kris Meeke in its line-up for this week’s Orlen 74th Rally Poland (29 June - 2 July). Meeke was dropped after rolling out of the lead in Italy earlier this month, the culmination of an accident-strewn series of rallies.
Mikkelsen spearheaded a four-day test in Poland immediately after the Italian encounter and Citroën has since submitted technical upgrades to the FIA.
It has asked to homologate a new rear differential rail and play one of its mechanical ‘jokers’ to modify the torque split between the front and rear.
Mikkelsen won in Poland in 2016 and finished runner-up in 2014 and 2015. Team principal Yves Matton acknowledged the former Volkswagen Motorsport pilot’s expertise was a driving force behind the changes.
“We needed to take a step back to note that some of the risks we had taken during development of the C3 WRC were not paying off. Our car is unquestionably fast, but the window in which it works efficiently was proving too narrow.
“We have therefore begun making some major changes to our organisation, our methods and our principles. The first of these was the arrival of Andreas Mikkelsen, who encouraged us to explore some new ideas.
“After his first proper test session in the C3 WRC, we have introduced some upgrades that supplement the work done over the last few months. With a more versatile car, our drivers will be able to aim for the kind of results that match Citroën’s high expectations,” he said.
Mikkelsen finished eighth on his Citroën debut in Italy after struggling with the C3. He will have the new ‘joker’ upgrades in Poland but due to delays in sourcing new parts, team-mates Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre will not.
“We had a very good test session last week,” he said. “After spending two days in the car, on the kind of roads we’ll encounter in the rally, I defined a set-up that matches my driving style.
“Obviously there is still work to do, but I think Craig and Stéphane were also pleased with the changes,” added Mikkelsen, who believes a podium is possible ‘if everything goes well’.
Citroën made no reference to Meeke in its pre-event news release, but when announcing the Poland switch, Matton confirmed the Ulsterman would return for Neste Rally Finland (27 - 30 July).