Citroen has written off its 2017 season and is now focusing its effort and attention on the start of next year’s World Rally Championship season. A year in the making, the C3 WRC had been expected to return the French giant to the sort of form which carried it to 17 world titles in a decade of dominance.
Instead, Citroen sits at the bottom of the manufacturers’ table, 142 points behind series leader M-Sport.
Citroen team principal Yves Matton said: “The idea now is to work toward a middle and long-term view. We are working towards 2018 when we want to find back the pace.
“We cannot say we don’t have the pace, we have the pace in some conditions – but in rallying it’s not enough to have the pace in some places. We are working to have the right pace from a car in every condition.
“When we are testing now we are working more in development than in testing for the set-up for a specific rally. This doesn’t mean we cannot fight for the victory in a rally [for the remainder of this season], but we changed a little bit the approach; more than a little bit: we change the approach.”
Matton praised stand-in driver Andreas Mikkelsen for his efforts both in testing before and in adapting the C3 WRC to the wet conditions at Rally Poland – but he also underlined number one driver Kris Meeke’s desire to introduce the same changes earlier in the season.
Matton continued: “I took the decision after [Rally Italy in] Sardinia that we would homologate the new torque split.
“This isn’t a new story, it’s one of the points that was coming back to us for a long time – Kris [Meeke] has been talking about this for a long time; it’s an old story, but we decided the easiest way was to apply it on a rally, which gives different conditions to testing.”
“We took some decisions after Sweden and started to make changes after that, but we knew back then that these changes would be for 2018.
“We already made three changes to the suspension; the big one comes for 2018, but we are working on it already now. It’s a very long process, it’s one year for the suspension.”
Mikkelsen is confident the car has moved on with the homologation changes.
“We did a lot of changes to the car before Poland,” said Mikkelsen. “And the team is very happy about this. We worked on the differential to try to stop the rear sliding so much and this is good.
“We did a lot in those two days, but it takes time – you know you don’t build a new damper in a day. There is more to come, especially in the suspension.”
Mikkelsen said he was confident the impact-related issues Meeke and Breen suffered in Argentina had been cured.
“There’s more protection now.” said Mikkelsen, “There’s more now than we had on the [Volkswagen] Polo. OK, this impacts a little bit on the grip and reaction, but it’s all a balance – but the hard hits in Argentina, I think we’re through that. I’m starting to be very happy with the car now.”
Mikkelsen returns to the car for Rally Germany, where he drives alongside Meeke and Craig Breen.