Upcoming Rally Mexico will be first Loeb-less WRC event in what seems like an age. French ace decided to skip Mexico and host of other rallies this year, as he focuses on other activities, such as WTCC and GT racing. Ever since Sebastien announced his retirement, discussion is on about the possible new generation of Citroën driver(s). Sure, both seats are taken at the moment, with Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo set to contest 2013 behind the wheel of a DS3 WRC, but one must look beyond this year, right?
Right! And Citroën is doing just that. Together with it’s partners, Citroën Racing revealed interesting new scheme dubbed Citroën Top Driver. Basically, emerging talents will be able to prove their worth driving DS3 R3 on selected rounds of the World Rally Championship this year. Final prize is tempting – DS3 R5 WRC drive for next season!
As well as being great news in general, this bit of info also is nice little confirmation of Citroën’s long-term WRC plans. Or at least I believe it is. Below is Citroën Racing’s official release.
Building on its young driver development and support programme, and in partnership with Abu Dhabi, Total and Pirelli, Citroën Racing is set to launch the “Citroën Top Driver” series. Created to comply with the regulations for WRC 3, which will become part of the World Rally Championship in 2013, this series will be the final rung on the ladder leading to the upper echelons of rallying and a springboard towards the sport’s top flight category for the best drivers.
Since it first became involved in rallying, Citroën Racing has always attached great importance to finding and training the most promising young drivers. The likes of Sébastien Loeb, Dani Sordo, Sébastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville all started out with Citroën before going on to compete at the highest level. In 2013, Citroën’s Customer Racing department will extend its involvement in rallying by creating two new formulas. Although the FFSA’s “Rallye Jeunes” (Young Rally Drivers) initiative remains the first level at which talented young drivers are identified, they can also make a name for themselves in a Citroën DS3 R1 in the Citroën Racing Trophy Junior, held in eight countries across Europe, before competing in the same formula in a more powerful car: the DS3 R3. The missing component, however, has been the chance for these drivers to show off their skills on the biggest stages in world rallying, at a reasonable cost. This is the idea behind the “Citroën Top Driver” series.
The concept came about when the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) decided to introduce regulations for a new category in the world championship, entitled WRC 3. This series will be open to two-wheel drive cars. The “Citroën Top Driver” series will feature a mixed calendar, with rallies contested in a DS3 R3. The crews and teams that score the most points will win the championship. The stakes are high, as the winner will be offered the chance to take part in six rallies in the WRC 2 championship (open to all four-wheel drive cars other than world rally cars) in 2014, whilst this vehicle will be prepared by the best team. The “Citroën Top Driver” series will therefore feature two lots of standings. First and foremost, a drivers’ championship, where the top ten at each rally will be awarded points (25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 and 1) depending on where they finish in the group R standings (all classes). And a teams’ championship, in which the final results of one or two cars entered by teams at each rally will be added up, bearing in mind that teams may not designate more than two DS3 R3s per race as eligible to score points.
“Our aim is to make it easier for drivers to compete in the World Rally Championship by creating a racing formula that is accessible and affordable, and which rewards the best drivers and teams”, explained Marek Nawarecki, Customer Racing Manager for Citroën Racing. “The very essence of this challenge is to create a stepping stone between the national championships and the world championship by putting in place a major programme which is within the reach of the crews. This involves sharing the cost. With this in mind, each team must enter at least two DS3 R3s in the ‘Citroën Top Driver’ series. We would also like the teams to compete with each other in a transparent and fair manner, so each of them must publish their season costs so that potential customers are able to compare the various options available to them.”
The series, which will feature four rounds on gravel and two on tarmac, is due to kick off at the Rally de Portugal on 13- 14 April of next year.
Rounds of Citroën Top Driver programme for 2013:
Rally de Portugal
Rallye de France
Wales Rally GB
Source: Citroën Racing