Citroen has started testing of its new hybrid version of the C4 WRC that has proved to be the dominant force in the World Rally Championship.

The C4 HYbrid4, which was launched at the Paris Motor Show last year, has been developed from the current C4 WRC used by Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo, and features a 990-cell Ion Lithium battery and 125kw electric motor which can provide drive to the rear wheels.

It allows the car to run as the normal C4 WRC, but it can also recover energy under braking to provide a boost to the engine. The car can also run in electric mode on road sections.

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"The objective with this project was to be able to use the electric motor to drive on some of the road sections," engineer Didier Raso said. "This fully operational concept responds to that design brief.

"Citroen Racing wanted to show its ability to adapt this technology to motorsport. If at any point in the future the regulations permit the use of hybrid technology, we will be able to react straight away."

Sordo was at the wheel of the car for the test, which involved running on a road section in electric mode, before he tackled a tarmac stage similar to those seen in the WRC to evaluate the car in competition mode.

"In electric mode, you can drive through villages without making the slightest noise, which is very unusual for a competition," he said. "It's better for the environment and also more comfortable for the crew, making road sections more pleasant.

"On the stages, I would say that the overall behaviour of the car is slightly different to that of the C4 WRC, with more weight to the rear. The boost function means that we can choose when to benefit from extra torque under acceleration. When it comes in, the effect is impressive."