CITROËN announced today it is quitting the FIA World Rally Championship immediately, citing the anticipated departure of six-time world champion Sébastien Ogier as a reason.
“Without Sébastien Ogier and without any first-class driver available to fight for a world title, Citroën takes the decision to withdraw in advance from its WRC programme,” the French team said.
Ogier is widely understood to have signed for Toyota, walking away from the second half of a two-year deal after a difficult season with the C3 WRC car. There is no indication of a future berth for Ogier’s teammate Esapekka Lappi.
Citroën said it would focus on its customer rally program for the C3 R5 in 2020.
CEO Linda Jackson thanked the team for its “passion and commitment”.
“Our decision to withdraw from (the) WRC programme as early as end of 2019 follows on Sébastien Ogier’s choice to leave Citroën Racing.,” Jackson said.
“We obviously have not wished this situation, but we could not imagine 2020 season without Sébastien.
“A part of Citroën’s DNA is intimately linked with the rally and we are proud to be one of the most titled brands in WRC history with 102 victories and eight manufacturer titles.”
Citroën said the decision to end manufacturer participation in the WRC would enable the company to focus on brand strategy, with the launch of a new generation of electrified road car models coming in 2020.
Autoaport.com reports Ogier will be announced as a Toyota driver alongside Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanpera next Monday. The M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC vacated by Evans is now the only frontline, full-time factory seat remaining in the world championship.
Citroën won the WRC manufacturers’ title eight times between 2003 and 2012, but finished only third in this year’s series.
It stepped aside from the WRC in 2016 while it developed the C3 for the new 2017 regulations. But there will be no quick return this time, with parent company PSA advising it will not be involved in the championship’s 2022 move to new regulations specifying hybrid power.
Citroën WRC’s departure adds to the pool of top-line drivers apparently yet without confirmed drives for 2020. They include Lappi, Hayden Paddon, Craig Breen, Jari-Matti Latvala, Kris Meeke and Andreas Mikkelsen.