Ogier in Toyota, OK… but what happened to Citroën?
Two major bombs descended upon green pastures of World Rally Championship in recent weeks. They were closely linked and their explosion rocked our world almost in unison. Bomb number one belonged to Citroën while number two had Toyota logo on it, underlined with Sebastien Ogier’s signature. Citroën’s bomb went off first – French squad announced their immediate withdrawal from WRC. We’ve been there before, Citroën has been coming and going several times already, but this time it was different. The reason for cancelling their WRC participation was the real bomb. They did not try to disguise it under thick blanket of PR talk and worn-out phrases. They did not even try. Instead, they asked a first six-year-old to come up with an excuse and then they used that excuse in their official announcement. I couldn’t believe it at first, but they stuck with it so I guess this is really their position on the matter.
So, Citroën has decided to leave the Championship because Ogier decided to swap teams and move from Citroën to Toyota. While it is completely possible that Citroën forced Ogier’s hand by sharing some of its intentions internally, it is beyond silly to cite one driver’s move to another team as a reason to quit the series. That, however, wasn’t enough for Citroën so they went on to say their exit was also encouraged by the lack of replacement for Ogier – they said WRC market lacks top class drivers, capable of winning rallies and titles. It’s a bit ironic coming from a team which was so passionate about their young drivers programmes over the years. They were among those who claimed investing in young talents is crucial, yet now it seems all the talent is gone from WRC.
The real reason for Citroën’s withdrawal, however, probably lies in rising costs and lack of ROI for their participation. It is likely Hyundai and Toyota will engage in an all out war of cash and Citroën simply called it. For time being, I sincerely hope.
Ogier, on the other hand, ended up in Toyota with one-year contract. What will happen if Seb decides to stick to his promise and retire at the end of 2020? Is Toyota going to quit the Championship as well due to this lack of talended young guns looking for their chance to shine?