FRENCH team Citroën has tested radical Formula 1-style aerodynamic updates to its C3 WRC car as driver Sébastien Ogier fights to win a seventh-straight FIA World Rally Championship at Kennards Hire Rally Australia next month.
Ogier trails championship favourite Ott Tänak of Toyota by 28 points and must score well in the penultimate round at RACC Catalunya – Rally de España next week to force a showdown on the NSW Coffs Coast on 14-17 November. There are 60 points available over the last two rounds.
Ogier’s biggest concern in the mixed-surface Spanish round is the two days on asphalt.
The Frenchman labelled the car “undriveable” on the way to seventh overall in Germany, a puncture removing him from the back end of the podium, where he struggled to match title rivals Tänak and Thierry Neuville despite admitting to driving flat out.
During the Rally Spain test the Citroën C3 WRC revealed a complete aerodynamic makeover, with a new splitter and additional wings above the front wheels, reminiscent of vanes seen on Formula 1 sidepods.
Citroën’s technical director Olivier Maroselli wouldn’t be drawn on the aero updates and which of them would be seen in time for next week’s event, Autosport reported.
“All I can say on this subject is that we are working flat out,” he said.
A rival team source said they would be watching with interest as Citroën arrived in Spain.
“That’s a lot of work all around the car,” the source said.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how much of that comes, but if they’re not using it then you would ask the question of why Ogier would be driving the car with it on – especially at such a crucial time of the season.”
In its first season, the C3 was at its strongest on asphalt with Kris Meeke coming close to winning the Tour of Corsica in 2017.
Since then, however, the chassis evolution has brought more understeer into the car and that’s where the focus of the testing has been.
Citroen tested for four days in total, three of which were on asphalt and two of those three were for Ogier.
Esapekka Lappi completed the first day, with test driver Eric Camilli running a development day of testing on gravel, which will comprise part of the Rally Spain course and all of Rally Australia.
Speaking ahead of the day on the gravel, Maroselli told Autosport: “So far so good. We mainly worked and improved on the diffs (differential) side.
“Everything combined, we solved the understeering issue, which was our main issue on the last tarmac rounds. We clearly improved the balance of the car and the driver’s feeling confirms it.
“What we don’t know yet, is if it will be enough or not in terms of performance. But we will keep working flat out till the rally to be as much competitive as possible.”
Citroën won Rally Spain last year with Sebastien Loeb behind the wheel, but a major factor in the victory was Loeb’s tyre choice on the Sunday morning, which gave him an advantage.