Volvo V90 CC

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS -

If you’re plan­ning on hunt­ing down cryp­to­zo­o­log­i­cal mar­vels, bet­ter take some­thing that blends in...

The World Rally Cham­pi­onship is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­thing of a resur­gence in 2017, and it’s not just a mildly dull F1 that it has to thank. Be­tween in­spired rule changes (that have at­tracted two new works teams and spawned spec­tac­u­lar cars with more power, more down­force, ac­tive difs and wider tracks), four difer­ent win­ners in the frst four races and Kris Meeke for­get­ting what the difer­ence be­tween a car park and a road is, it’s once again be­come the se­ries to watch. But where does it go from here? The driv­ers can’t get any braver, the bob­ble-hat­ted spec­ta­tors can’t get any dafter, so how does WRC stay rel­e­vant and ex­hil­a­rat­ing? We spoke to Alexis Avril, project man­ager for Citroen Rac­ing’s 2017 car, and here’s how.

First of, the out­ra­geous aero (we’re look­ing at you, Toy­ota) isn’t about to calm down any­time soon. Sure Citroen’s sketch is ex­ag­ger­ated for efect, but there’s clear in­tent there to in­crease the rear wing, the rear di­fuser, the side sills and the pro­trud­ing chin. Ground clear­ance ap­pears to be a se­condary con­sid­er­a­tion here, al­though that can al­ways be added in later. Ac­cord­ing to Avril, “You can never have too much down­force.” Sounds like our kind of guy. Citroen’s de­sign­ers have even en­vis­aged a semi-closed, Honda In­sight-ap­ing rear wheel to re­duce drag and cap­ture vi­tal tenths on those rarest of WRC sights – straight bits.

Un­der the bon­net of this sus­pi­ciously low-slung future C3? Down­siz­ing gone mad. “We imag­ine some­thing like a 1.0-litre turbo, maybe even less. Three cylin­ders, max­i­mum, with hy­bridi­s­a­tion of course to help drive the front wheels in cer­tain specifc stages. Four-wheel drive and four-wheel steer­ing” Avril ex­plains. So 400bhp-plus, from a 1.0-litre or less with some elec­tric as­sis­tance.

Com­pen­sat­ing for the weight of the hy­brid bat­ter­ies will be a car­bon-fbre-in­ten­sive con­struc­tion, and aluminium in parts where there’s cur­rently steel – a fair re­fec­tion of the sort of ma­te­ri­als main­stream su­per­mi­nis should be us­ing come 2027, but Avril’s big­gest weight-saving mea­sure cuts 70kg in one swoop – ditch­ing the co-driver. It’s rad­i­cal, we know, but hear him out.

“For safety, we know that hav­ing the crew close to the cen­tre of the car is im­por­tant, so why not have the co-driver behind the driver in the cen­tre, or bet­ter still lose them al­to­gether? Tech­nol­ogy could efec­tively take over the co-driver’s job, and feed au­to­mated notes to the driver.”

Any­one that’s carved up rally stages on their home con­sole will know a com­puter is more than ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing the right note at the right time. And if it also im­proves safety and speed, then co-driv­ers could soon be a relic of the past.

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