CITROEN AND TOYOTA TEST DEBUTS
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.