Motor Sport News - - Rally News - Photos: mck­lein-im­age­

World Rally Cham­pi­onship gi­ants Citroen and Toy­ota have taken the next step to their se­ries re­turn next sea­son.

As ex­pected, Bri­tain’s Kris Meeke spear­headed the French firm’s first test of the C3 WRC last week. Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing will run its Yaris WRC for the first time in cen­tral Fin­land this week.

Fol­low­ing a shake­down close to Paris, Citroen com­pleted three days of rough gravel run­ning gravel at Chateau-de-Las­tours and Fon­tjon­couse, near Nar­bonne be­tween Thurs­day and Satur­day. French news­pa­per L’equipe ex­plained the roads se­lected were par­tic­u­larly rough as Citroen sought to ex­pose weak­nesses in the new car as early as pos­si­ble.

Meeke com­pleted 60 miles of run­ning on the first morn­ing.

He said: “I drove the car for the first time for the shake­down in Sa­tory, on Mon­day. I have been to the fac­tory a few times and seen draw­ings on a com­puter screen. Be­fore Monte Carlo, I also sat in a bodyshell to po­si­tion the seat, but you see noth­ing in a bodyshell. So it [the Sa­tory test] was the first time I saw [the car] and it was im­pres­sive.”

Meeke ad­mit­ted that first test was an emo­tional one.

The Dun­gan­non driver said: “I have to say that I am liv­ing my dream! It’s great to be part of such a project from the very be­gin­ning – Citroen’s an­other league. It be­comes ob­vi­ous that the ex­pe­ri­ence of the team re­ally counts at this stage; it feels al­ready like a proper rally car where we can ex­plore the lim­its.”

Meeke praised the FIA for the new-for-2017 rules, adding: “The car looks fan­tas­tic and much more sexy with those new FIA reg­u­la­tions. I am pretty sure that the spec­ta­cle will be amaz­ing for all the fans.

“The sen­sa­tions are dif­fer­ent. It was a big plea­sure to ex­pe­ri­ence that for the first time.”

Citroen Rac­ing di­rec­tor Yves Mat­ton said the new car was a big step over the cur­rent World Rally Cars.

“It’s al­ways spe­cial to see a new car launched and it is not so of­ten you can ex­pe­ri­ence this in a ca­reer as a team boss,” said Mat­ton. “It’s the re­sult of hard work from all the team. It’s a de­light, the noise is very ag­gres­sive, the be­hav­iour of the car also. The car looks fast, it’s a good step from the gen­er­a­tion of World Rally Car we have now. We haven’t been stopped for all the morn­ing, no ma­jor prob­lems and Kris’s com­ments are very pos­i­tive.”

Af­ter two days in the test car, Meeke stepped aside to let Ir­ish­man Craig Breen get be­hind the wheel for the first time.

Toy­ota’s ini­tial shake­down is likely to be com­pleted by team prin­ci­pal and four-time world cham­pion Tommi Maki­nen.

New C3 WRC has bro­ken cover

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