Citroën have announced that they will end their involvement in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) after the 2016 season, fielding just two cars for José María López and Yvan Muller next year.
Instead the French manufacturer plans to switch focus to the World Rally Championship (WRC) for 2017 onwards, spending time in the preceding year to develop its new car.
“Still determined to make the most of our resources, we will de defending our titles with a team of two works cars,” explained Citroën Racing Team Principal Yves Matton. “With the arrival of a new, ambitious manufacturer, we are expecting the competition to be even tougher next year.
“Pechito [López] and Yvan are used to working together and making the success of the team their number one priority. Next year, they will need to be even more together to enable Citroën to conclude its programme successfully. Other Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs may be entered by the Sébastien Loeb Racing team for private drivers.”
The new means that new back-to-back champion López will have another opportunity to defend his title, and possibly make it a perfect hat-trick for Citroën.
“The last two years have undoubtedly been the greatest of my career,” said López. “I am therefore delighted to be able to continue competing with Citroën Racing in 2016.
“We are going to keep working, all together, so that the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC remains the category’s leading car. And our goal is to defend our titles!”
It also means that Muller, the most successful driver in WTCC history, has another chance to try to beat López to the title.
“I’m proud to have taken part in building what is currently the best team in the FIA WTCC,” added Muller. “I’m also honoured to be have been chosen to continue competing on behalf of Citroën.
“We have to adjust to the new shape of the team, but we can count on the talent and experience of the team to maintain the same level of excellence.”
The news also coincides with the announcement that long-time Citroën start Sébastien Loeb is to part ways with the brand, and the WTCC, and move to sister-marque Peugeot in the future.
No details have been provided as to whether the former rally champion’s team, Sébastien Loeb Racing, will continue to field independent C-Elysée’s in the WTCC.
“This marks the end of one chapter for me, but what I want to focus on today is my satisfaction at having participated in Citroën’s success in the WRC and WTCC,” said Loeb. “Apart from the figures and the records, we have shared some magnificent experiences together.
“It’s hard to believe that most of the members of this amazing team were already here fifteen years ago! I’ll miss their hunger for success and limitless motivation, but I won’t be far away… I’m staying within the PSA Peugeot Citroën group to take on a new challenge.”
Linda Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of Citroën, paid tribute to Loeb, who will take on the challenge of the Dakar Rally in the future.
“In the last fifteen years, Sébastien Loeb and Citroën have made history together,” added Jackson. “It has been an absolutely incredible period that will leaving a lasting mark in the world of motor sport. We would like to thank him for all these wins, titles and records, which have helped to renew the Brand and boost its international reputation.
“Sébastien is now about to embark on a new adventure with another brand in the group. We wish them lots of success together, starting with next year’s Dakar Rally.”
It is unclear what the announcement of a two-car team for 2016 means for the WTCC’s newly-announced MAC3 qualifying format, which requires three cars to participate for each manufacturer.