Kris Meeke believes Citroën’s 2017-spec World Rally Car has ‘incredible’ potential and has compared the new machine to the dramatic Group B cars that contested the WRC in the 1980s.Meeke gave his verdict after driving the car for the first time at a development test on gravel roads in Château de Lastours and then in Fontjoncouse, in southern France, last week.
Based on the yet-to-be launched C3 road car, the new WRC machine will be campaigned by Citroën Racing when it returns to the Championship in 2017.
“As soon as we set off, I felt that I was driving a genuine rallying machine, a well-designed car,” explained Meeke. “I have been involved in the development of several cars in my time; generally speaking, you spend more time waiting around than driving in the first few test sessions. But with this, I was able to rack up the miles and start to explore the set-up options. It was like a dream!”
Built to next year’s FIA technical regulations, the car is 55mm wider, 25km lighter and has more aerodynamic devices than the manufacturer’s latest DS 3 model. Performance is also boosted by the return of an active centre-differential and a less restricted turbo that Citroën say raises engine power to 380bhp.
“With the power and the aerodynamic efficiency, these cars are fascinating. After my first run, one of the mechanics filmed the expression on my face. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the big smile on my face spoke volumes about how much I had enjoyed driving the new car!” Meeke said.
And with the jump in performance over the current cars, Meeke acknowledged that there were comparisons with the iconic Group B era.
“Obviously, it’s a period of the history of rallying that everyone remembers with affection. The cars were spectacular, with their bold design and big spoilers. We’re returning to that spirit, with more aggressively-designed cars but adding in the technological advances that we now have in 2016,” he said.
Already confirmed as a team driver for 2017 and 2018, Meeke drove the new car for three days before handing over driving responsibilities to rising star Craig Breen on the fourth.
“It’s always exciting to drive a car for the first time. But this is different, this is the start of a major new programme for Citroën Racing and new era for the WRC. That’s what makes this moment so special. I know that everyone has put in a lot of work to build this new car. So it’s special for them too! Now, we’re moving into a new stage of the process and it’s up to me to step up to the plate,” added Meeke.