Citroën has announced that next year’s FIA World Touring Car Championship season will be its third and final year of works’ participation.
Citroën has utterly dominated the championship since its debut in 2014 with its WTCC C-Elysées, romping to successive Manufacturers’ Championship titles and Drivers’ Championship crowns for López.
The decision comes at the behest of parent owner, the PSA Peugeot Citroën Group, which broadcast that it would exit either the WTCC or World Rally Championship following its decision to enter the FIA Formula E Championship with its DS sub-brand.
The French carmaker will also scale back its manufacturer team to two cars next year, retaining newly-crowned two-time series champion José María López and four-time title-winner Yvan Muller but dispensing with the services of Sébastien Loeb and Ma Qing Hua.
Loeb also ran two C-Elysées through his own eponymous team for Bennani and Ma (the latter’s on behalf of the manufacturer), and it is expected that both will remain with SLR while Loeb pursues a return to rallying.
Loeb ‘surprised’ to learn of Citroën split
Nine-time World Rally Champion Loeb admitted he was shocked to learn of his sacking while on the cusp of claiming runner-up spot in this year’s Drivers’ Championship standings.
Citroën Racing’s decision to trim its works effort down to just two cars – keeping López and Muller – leaves no room for Loeb, who is now faced with the choice of putting himself in his own privateer team or making a full-time return to rallying.
The Frenchman took to his official website to express his views:
“I was surprised to learn that I would not be continuing with Citroen Racing in 2016. We built this WTCC challenge together with my personal goal of clinching the drivers’ title within three years. I am disappointed to learn that the project is stopped after just two years. I was focussed on winning the title and I proved that I was pretty competitive behind the wheel of the C-Elysee, scoring four wins in 2015. That puts an end on a magnificent story, and I have no regrets. On the contrary, I’ll keep fantastic memories of my time in the WTCC.”
Loeb confirmed that he would remain with the PSA Peugeot Citroën Group, representing Peugeot in the upcoming Dakar Rally.
WTCC hopeful of privateer Citroens beyond 2016
Citroën’s impending exit is a major blow for the FIA World Touring Car Championship, which had only recently trumpeted a growth in manufacturers thanks to the return of Volvo next year.
Series promoter François Ribeiro was confident, however, that the French carmaker’s C-Elysées would remain in a privateer capacity in 2016 and beyond.
“We were delighted when Citroën chose the WTCC over a number of other international championships and pleased they got so much out of their participation,” he said.
“Given the economic climate, Citroën Racing has been requested to focus on one world championship and they are going back to their rallying roots, with a strong WTCC engine.
“We respect that decision and know manufacturer involvement in motorsport has always been cyclical. The WTCC was on its two feet before Citroen entered, and will go on in 2017.
“Citroen will still enter a full factory team in 2016 and we are already working with them to see how a semi-factory team can be run beyond the end of next year.”
Image via Citroen Communication