Citroen has unveiled future motorsport plans that will see the French manufacturer withdraw from the FIA World Touring Car Championship to focus its efforts on rallying.
However as part of this Citroën’s works rally team will sit out the 2016 World Rally Championship (WRC) in order to develop a new as yet-unnamed model for revised technical regulations coming to the series in 2017.
The 2016 season will also be the last for Citroen in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC). The brand entered the series in 2014, building cars to the new technical regulations and basing them on the C-Elysee model sold mainly in the Far East.
Citroen has since dominated the WTCC, winning the driver and manufacturer titles in both 2014 and 2015, and indeed some observers believe that this domination has contributed to the brand’s decision to withdraw from the series, unhappy at the declining media coverage, particularly in France, of its continued success.
Volvo is due to join the WTCC with a works team in 2016, but rumours persist that spiralling development costs, particularly in engines, could reduce the number of private entries on the grids.The decision is widely regarded as a blow for the WTCC, which has struggled to attract new manufacturers since revising its technical regulations for the 2014 season. Citroen’s current competition comes from Honda and Lada, with the grids filled out by privately-run Chevrolets built by RML in Britain.
WTCC head Francois Ribeiro is accepting Citroen’s decision, stating that manufacturer involvement in race series is always cyclical, though he adds that negotiations are still underway in the hope of the brand being represented in the series in a semi-works capacity after 2016.
Citroen’s decision not to enter the 2016 WRC has put the competition future of Britain’s top rally driver Kris Meeke in doubt, only a week after he scored an impressive second place behind champion Sebastien Ogier on the final round of the 2015 WRC, the Rally of Wales. However Meeke is believed to be in negotiations to run a partial WRC programme in 2016.