- Testing time ahead for 2017 Citroën racing
- Maiden run to be Mont-Carlo Rally
- January 19 start for world’s oldest rally
‘The moment for which WRC fans have been desperately waiting is finally upon us: in a few days the 2017 World Rally championship will get under way on the stages of the legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo. The Citroën C3 WRC – designed to meet the new FIA regulations – will make its competitive debut with Meeke/Paul Nagle and Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau in the cabins.’ – Citroën Motorsport
PARIS, France – Apart from the prestige evoked by its name, Rallye Monte-Carlo owes much of its reputation to the unpredictability of road conditions. In January the roads in the hills of south-west of France can be snow-covered, icy, wet or dry.
In a single stage, then, drivers can experience each of these conditions. The Citroën World Rally team will be in competition with two new cars.
Tyre choice is critical. Citroën says it’s all about estimating, for an entire loop of stages, the best compromise. “Gaps can open up and disappear very quickly,” the automakers says, “making the race even more exciting.”
This will be the 85th Monte, the world’s oldest such rally, and run over four days. It will start on January 19 with an evening ceremonial start in Monaco, the principality’s only town.
Crews will head towards Gap for two evening stages, one them new.
“The following morning,” Citroën believes, “will be incredibly intense with two loops of three stages. On Saturday the competitors will return to Monaco with five stages on the way.
“The final leg on Sunday, contested with no service, will see crews tackle the famous Col de Turini with the finish early on the afternoon of Sunday January 22.
START OF NEW ERA FOR WRC
Citroën says its new cars are more powerful and will be more spectacular than their predecessors. “The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT has generated a lot of interest,” the automaker says, “but nobody is getting carried away in the ranks of the Red Army.
“Everybody is eager to see the first stage times but with a mix of excitement and anxiety that all the hard work over the past two years will meet the ambitions of the brand.”
Citroën will enter only two C3 WRC cars in four of the year’s first five rallies. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle and Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau, Citroën says, have been tasked with scoring points towards the Manufacturers’ championship.
Craig Breen/Scott Martin will be racing in a previous-generation car so will score points in the Drivers’ championship.
Meeke, in 2016, fought for the lead before he had to retire. Stéphane Lefebvre finished fifth, his best result in the championship. For 2017 the team mates will have the same ambition: eliminate the unknowns and manage the variables as they try to solve the tricky equation posed by the 2017 Rallye Monte-Carlo.
2017 RALLYE MONTE-CARLO KEY FIGURES
- 17 timed stages covering a total of 382.65km
- 76 entries, including 10 2017-generation cars
- 41 tyres per crew (maximum), chosen from a possible 72, with a cjhoice of four compounds
- 22 professionals will work with the Citroën team, among them engineers, specialist mechanics, engine specialists, gravel/tarmac crews, meteorologists, news media people, caterers and drivers
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Yves Matton, team principal: “As always at the start of a programme we feel a few extra days would have been welcome to spend more time developing the car – the C3 WRC has been the least in the history of Citroën Racing. Our teams have made an extraordinary investment through the previous few months.
“A competitive spirit is hard-wired in us. The car seems well-designed and consistent but we’ll have to see how it compares with rivals. Kris showed (in 2016) that he can win this rally but we must differentiate between a test run and a four-day rally with only two passes to recce the stages.
“We’ll need to be defensive at the start then look to the rest of the rally.
“It will be different for Stéphane. Like Craig, we want to take him to a level where he can challenge to win, but there will still be a period of learning in the first half of the season. He needs to aim for a points finish and make it to the end.
“We only have two cars – there’s no back-up, no safety net.”
Laurent Fregosi, technical director: “We come to Monte-Carlo feeling we’ve done some good testing. The drivers seem comfortable, making us optimistic about raw performance. Preparations concentrated on a wide variety of tyre combination set-up options.
“We spent a lot of time studying the active central differential, a new component which subtly adjusts the cars’ handling of the car according to road conditions. The aim is to provide the drivers with an ‘easy’ car: forgiving through a sudden change in grip.
“This first rally will also be a good reliability test.”
Kris Meeke: “I have a feeling we’ll be in the spotlight – I hope I can concentrate on my driving. It’s never easy at Monte-Carlo: at each service we’ll need to come up with the right – or least-wrong – tyre choice.
“People have no idea of the mountains of work during test sessions. Citroën Racing has a great deal of experience I can use but for this first rally my aim is to relax and enjoy myself.
“They do say – and rightly so – that anything can happen at Monte-Carlo.”
Stêphane Lefebvre: “We’ve been talking with the engineers about details related to my car. Nothing has been left to chance. On this my first rally with this status I want to score as many points as possible.
“I’m still short of at-the-wheel time with the C3 WRC. I have to get to grips with the car in racing conditions before trying to drive at the limit. We’re all in the same boat to some extent with a number of unknowns in all areas.”
Craig Breen: “I’ll certainly be the driver under the least pressure. I’m pleased to start my season in an old car because I don’t have a lot of experience at Monte-Carlo. This will teach me about the rally and be an opportunity to note the gap between the two generations of World Rally cars.
“My priority is to rack up the miles but I’ll be pleased if I manage a few points. They might come in handy at the end of the season.”