French firm ends record-breaking run in WRC, blaming driver Sebastien Ogier's decision to quit team
James Attwood, digital editor
20 November 2019

Citroën has quit the World Rally Championship with immediate effect – claiming the decision was made because lead driver Sébastien Ogier is leaving the team.

The French firm has a storied history in the WRC, winning nine consecutive drivers’ championships with Sebastien Loeb between 2004 and 2014, and eight manufacturers’ titles during that period. But it has struggled to compete with Toyota and Hyundai in recent years, finishing third in this year’s makes’ points. Ogier, who has won six drivers’ titles with Volkswagen and M-Sport Ford, was third in the drivers’ standings.

Ogier, who started his works career with Citroën in 2009, had returned to the firm this season on a two-year deal, but his unhappiness with the competitiveness of his C3 WRC became clear during the year. He is widely expected to switch to the title-winning Toyota squad for 2020. Finn Esapekka Lappi also drove for the team this year.

In a statement, Citroën Racing said that “following the decision of Sebastien Ogier to leave Citroën Racing after 2019 WRC season, Citroën decided to withdraw from its WRC programme in 2020 due to the absence of a first-class driver available for 2020 season.”

With sister firm DS a frontrunner in Formula E and Peugeot gearing up to return to the World Endurance Championship with a hybrid supercar in 2022, Citroën had been expected to leave the WRC in the coming years – but it is still a surprise for the firm to leave so quickly.

Citroën has shifted the focus of its road car line-up to emphasise comfort and electrification in recent years, away from performance-focused models, making its WRC programme an odd fit. The release added that the decision would enable it to “reinforce the focus of its marketing means on its brand strategy, to address the current stakes regarding energy transition with the launch of a new generation of electrified models from 2020".

Our Verdict

Citroën C3

Citroën focuses on design, comfort and infotainment for its new supermini

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

Citroën boss Linda Jackson said: “Our decision to withdraw from WRC programme as early as end of 2019 follows on Sébastien Ogier’s choice to leave Citroën Racing. We obviously have not wished this situation but we could not imagine 2020 season without Sébastien.

“I would like to thank Citroën Racing team for their passion and commitment. A part of Citroën’s DNA is intimately linked with the rally and we are proud to be one of the most titled brands in WRC History with 102 victories and eight manufacturer titles.”

Citroën's WRC history

Citroën dabbled in the WRC in the 1980s with the disastrous BX 4TC Group B car, but its current programme began in the late 1990s, when it shifted its efforts from rally raids. The firm developed a number of rapid two-wheel-drive kit cars, before stepping up to the top-level with the four-wheel-drive Xsara T4 WRC in 2001.

Jesus Puras took Citroën's first win during that part-season, but the start performer was French rookie Loeb, who picked up his first win in Germany as part of a limited campaign in 2002.

Citroën entered full-time in 2003, with Loeb joined by rally legends Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz. Loeb narrowly missed the title before clinching it in 2004, starting an unprecedented run of dominance. While Citroën took a year out in 2006 to develop the C4 WRC, Loeb still won the title in a privateer Xsara.

Ogier joined Citroën in 2010, and looked set to eventually succeed Loeb before tensions between the two led to him jumping to Volkswagen for 2012. Loeb won that year’s title in the C3 WRC before quitting the WRC full-time – and the firm’s title-winning run ended when Ogier claimed the first of his six consecutive titles in a Polo WRC in 2014.

Citroën had another sabbatical in 2016 while it developed the new C3 WRC, and, while the car has won rallies every season since 2017, the squad has been unable to mount a sustained title challenge. Briton Kris Meeke had led the squad before being dropped mid-way through 2018, and hopes had been high that the return of Ogier for this year would help Citroën return to dominance.

READ MORE

Why the World Rally Championship is back to its best

Citroën boss: comfort and creativity remain our core values

Citroën at 100: Goodwood Festival of Speed photo special

Join the debate

Comments
6

20 November 2019

 I can see a Court case looming, shouldn't be relying on one driver, surely it's not one driver that makes the team?, maybe Citroen haven't got the funds for Rallying?, I think it's wrong to come out and blame one person for the demise of a whole team, Mechanics and all logistical staff get the P45 ?, can't blame one ,an, no sir, making redundant a whole team...? I don't think so...

20 November 2019

Shamefull way to justify leaving when the reality is they built a turd on wheels.

The car was far behind the Yaris, I20 and even Fiesta WRC. I know Citroen has a huge tradition in World Rallying but they should have switched to Peugeot a few years back, there is literally no sport derived car on Citroen's line-up, whats the point of promoting the brand in the WRC?! Then they demand hybrid regulations to immediatelly leave before its introduction.

I suspect a future Opel programme may be on the horizon.

289

20 November 2019

....agreed. Citroen axes their rally programme - AGAIN!

Weak excuse.

20 November 2019

This smacks of grasping at straws. If they decided WRC doesn't work for technological or marketing reasons, then they shoud say so. Maybe we would understand, or not as the case may be. But to do it this way, blaming Ogier just because he went to Toyota who have built a much better car, just reflects very badly on Citroen. Citroen have really shot themselves in the foot by acting like this. Shame on you. 

20 November 2019

In the UK Citroen never used their success in rallying as well as they could for marketing benefits, I don't know if it was different in other markets? Rallying is not what it was and the cost of running a team by a comfort-led manufacturer made no sense.

20 November 2019

Ogier chases only glory and is not prepared to put in the hard work and build a team he expects to be given a car that wins without breaku=ing some sweat... 

 

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week