Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT
|Drivers:||Khalid Al Qassimi, Craig Breen, Sébastien Loeb, Kris Meeke, Mads Østberg|
Starting 2018 with a record of 98 WRC rally wins, 241 podium finishes and eight manufacturers’ world titles, Citroën has the best competitive record of the teams competing in the WRC.
It’s a record that stretches back to the 1950s when the French brand claimed its first major victories in rallying. However, it wasn’t until the start of the 1980s that the contemporary period truly began, with models like the Visa 1000 Pistes and the BX 4TC competing in the famous Group B era.
In 1989, the firm’s former racing department was renamed Citroën Sport and embarked on a successful cross country rally programme that garnered four Paris-Dakar victories.
Between 1991 and 1996, the ZX Grand Raids won 36 out of their 42 races, and were five-time winners of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup.
The outline of a WRC programme began to take shape. In the Xsara Kit-Car, Philippe Bugalski beat a host of World Rally Cars to win the 1999 Rally Catalunya and Tour de Corse.
The programme moved up a gear and the new Xsara WRC won the 2001 Tour de Corse, driven by Jesus Puras. After spending 2002 preparing its entry, Citroën began its first full campaign in 2003.
The team made an incredible start, with a one-two-three for Sébastien Loeb, Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz at Rallye Monte-Carlo. Citroën won its first manufacturers’ championship and successfully defended the title for the next two years.
Most of the squad’s subsequent success came with Loeb at the wheel; the Frenchman groomed by Citroën since he was a youngster in the Junior WRC.
Equipped with Xsara, C4 and DS 3 cars he claimed nine consecutive drivers’ titles before bowing out of full-time rallying in 2013.
Citroën failed to keep the winning momentum over the next few seasons, but the disappointments spurred positive action. It ended its three-year World Touring Car programme to concentrate on a fresh WRC start in 2017 with a new C3 challenger.
Drivers struggled to master the car on all surfaces, but Kris Meeke claimed two wins and performances improved towards the end of the year.
Meeke and Craig Breen will lead the 2018 campaign, assisted by WRC legend Loeb who will make a sensational return for three events.