At first, it’s hard to get your head round it. The world’s greatest living rally driver is lounging on a white leather sofa as Citroën Racing presents its driver line-up for the 2014 season, but he is not – emphatically not – part of the rally team.
Instead, Sébastien Loeb will spend 2014 driving for Citroën’s brand new World Touring Car Championship team, alongside reigning WTCC champion Yvan Muller and José María Lopéz, the Argentine racer who was announced as third driver during yesterday’s launch.
Loeb fancied a change, and having long-since proved himself as a consummate all-rounder, quick at every discipline of motorsport he deigns to turn his hand to, he was more than happy to forge a new path in touring cars with Citroën.
Like Loeb, Citroën finds itself at a divergent point as far as its motorsport projects are concerned, with the main focus starting to turn from rallying to circuit racing. At Monday’s launch of the firm’s 2014 competition plans in Versailles, France, Citroën’s marketing director Arnaud de Lamothe emphasised that the brand sees plenty of worth in all forms of motorsport. “It allows us to be present in significant markets for the brand,” he said.
However, those significant markets are changing. Citroën wants to continue to nurture growth in emerging areas such as China, Russia and South America, all of which feature on the varied WTCC schedule. Hence the big touring car push with the C-Elysée, a saloon that is only offered for sale in selected European markets.