Citroen has confirmed that, after much hype, it will indeed enter the 2014 World Touring Car Championship with multiple WRC title winner Sebastian Loeb.
The move was mooted at the time Loeb announced that he was to step back from rallying in search of different challenges, but it has taken until now for the French marque to complete its evaluation of the series and confirm that it would indeed be entering circuit racing on a global level, with plans to contest the entire 2014 WTCC schedule.
“Citroën Racing has spent the last few months looking in detail at the opportunity of going ahead with this programme,” revealed brand CEO Frédéric Banzet, “The WTCC is based on several aspects that are essential to Citroën: extensive media coverage, regulations that keep costs down and a genuinely global race calendar.
“Our involvement in this championship will give us not only another chance to showcase our Créative Technologie, but it will also help us to develop the brand in promising, growth markets such as China, Russia and South America. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our longstanding partner, Total, who will remain at our side for this new adventure.”
Citroën Racing's entry into the world of track-based motorsport racing will coincide with the introduction of a new generation of cars, which it claims are even more spectacular than the current crop.
“Competing in a category for the first time, starting from scratch, gives our division a superb challenge,” confirmed team principal Yves Matton, “Having said that, we will be able to re-use a large part of our existing expertise, starting with the DS3 WRC's 1.6-litre direct injection turbo engine. Work has already begun in our Versailles technical centre and is set to be stepped up in the coming weeks, with the first tests of our car and the start of our development programme to prepare for the 2014 season.”
After winning nine World Rally Championship Drivers' titles in Xsara, C4 and DS3 machinery, Loeb has made no secret of his enthusiasm about tackling the WTCC challenge with his favourite team.
“First of all, I am pleased that this has been confirmed,” the Frenchman – who has kept his hand in with sporadic WRC and Porsche Supercup outings – admitted, “It's a bit of a dream to think that we are going to write a new chapter in our history. I can't wait to get out on track in the car and start testing. I have used this transitional year to try out various experiences and to improve my track driving skills. I don't expect to win straight away, but I am determined to get there one day.”
Matton, meanwhile, confirmed that there would be no scaling back of Citroen's WRC programme to make room for the WTCC commitment.
“Obviously, we're still committed to rallying and we'll continue to work hard to try and get the best possible result in 2013,” he noted, “Our partnership with Abu Dhabi is set to be reinforced, enabling us to continue to be involved in WRC with a new system and with new objectives.”