Citroen has launched its assault on the 2011 World Rally Championship at an event in the French capital Paris.
The defending champions go into the new season fielding a brace of the new DS3 WRCs for Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier, while three cars will also run in privateer hands with Petter Solberg, Kimi Raikkonen and Peter van Merksteijn.
The DS3 has been built to the new WRC regulations and features a 1.6-litre turbocharged engines and will make its debut on Rally Sweden next month having been officially launched at the Paris Motor Show last October.
Since then, the car has undertaken an extensive testing programme, with the manufacturer hopeful that the car will match the success enjoyed by both the Xsara and C4 models that have been campaigned in the past.
“Our priority has been to rack up the kilometres in testing in all kinds of conditions,” technical manager Xavier Mestelan-Pinon said. “Thanks to the construction of a second DS3 WRC for test purposes we've been able to organize a session every fortnight. These tests have allowed us to work on reliability, and also to get to know the car, how it reacts to setup changes etc. As time passed we froze the technical definition of the car.
“These past few weeks we've been concentrating on what might look like details, but which aren't – quite the opposite, in fact - like the positioning of the safety equipment and the FIA management systems, the installation of the crews and training them how work on the car outside the service parks. Our main difficulty has been trying to find hot weather conditions to work in: we managed to find some heat in the south of Europe.”
Mestelan-Pinon said he expected the new generation of WRC machine, which includes the Fiesta RS WRC and the new MINI Countryman, would be popular with fans during the season ahead.
“The smaller size will reduce the inertia,” he said. “With no central differential, the cars will move about more under braking, even on asphalt. The engine will rev higher and make more noise. The absence of the semi-automatic gear selection will oblige the drivers to battle a bit more with the steering wheel. I'd say that these cars will be more fun to watch for the spectators.”