Volvo V90 CC
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.