Citroën Racing gets ready for 2017 World Rally Car challenge in Portugal

Article by Christian A., on May 23, 2016

Citroën Racing is continuing to develop their 2017 World Rally Car in Portugal, less than a month after the race. Kris Meeke and Stéphane Lefebvre achieved considerable mileage during the four-day test despite challenging weather variations and conditions.

The initial test was completed in southern France. Almost immediately after, Citroën Racing took their 2017 World Rally Car to the Algarve in Portugal for a second set of development test runs. The car is a prototype assembled by the Versailles Technical Centre. The testing team of Kris Meeke, Paul Nagle, Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau had their hands full negotiating the car through fog, rain and hail as well as sunny weather, in preparation for the Rally de Portugal where they will be part of the Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.

Laurent Fregosi, Technical Director of Citroën Racing said that they were very thankful to put the car through such a variety of weather conditions to thoroughly evaluate the possible set-ups and how the body withstood accumulations of mud. The test objectives included assessing how the car’s components reliability held up. Mileage for each part is recorded and verified with the specifications. Additionally, Fregosi adds that they “also focused on looking for performance and driver comfort.”

Fregosi, an INSA Lyon Engineering graduate, has been with Citroën Racing since 1995, the year the ZX Grand Raid triumphed at the Dakar Rally. Beginning with the Xsara Kit-Car, Fregosi has been involved on all Citroën rally programmes. At the beginning of 2005, he became the Chassis Chief Engineer, succeeding Xavier Mestelan-Pinon. Fregosi has worked on the 2017 programme for more than a year. Now the Technical Director, he recounts the car’s genesis.

Fregosi said that the two World Rally Car evaluation sessions under challenging conditions where no significant issues were identified was “very satisfying” and gratifying for all involved in its development in the past year. The development process started with an agreement over specifications under FIA rules, and Citroën’s marketing objectives. After the base model was selected, CAD configuration of the powertrain, petrol tank, spare wheel and other components was done. The roll cage design was derived from the resulting layout and the mandatory crew position.

The design team was responsible for the initial schematics, including every component’s particular design. The unifying principle was that components should be lightweight but resilient, and contribute to a lower centre of gravity. Input and opinions from all crews, technicians and engineers were considered. However, improvements are still required for the removal of some components that might need replacement later in service.

“As ever, the work done factored in the experience acquired over the last twenty years or so at the highest level of world rallying,” added Fregosi. He also said that they “added to [their] knowledge base by completing tests with a DS 3 WRC development mule.” Citroën eased off its development process in 2014, as they tested some innovations for the future. By using a Citroën C-Elysée WTCC engine, the car now had the equivalent power output as it will have next year. The newest suspension system was also evaluated.

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Three weeks after its first outing, Citroën Racing has continued development of its 2017 World Rally Car in the south of Portugal. Faced with varied weather conditions, Kris Meeke and Stéphane Lefebvre racked up the miles during four days of testing.

Fresh from the first test in the south of France, Citroën Racing headed to the Algarve in Portugal for the second session of development testing for its 2017 World Rally Car. The team were treated to rain, hail, fog and even the occasional burst of sunshine as they worked on the new car. Teammates Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle and Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau were busy behind the wheel of the prototype produced by the Versailles Technical Centre, as they prepare for Rally de Portugal with the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team.

“We were actually quite pleased to have these variable conditions because they meant we could test different set-ups and assess how the bodywork stood up to being loaded with mud,” explained Laurent Fregosi, Citroën Racing’s Technical Director. “During the tests, we have several objectives. Obviously, we want to check the reliability of the various components. The mileage done by each part is noted down to make sure it tallies with the specifications. But our work is also focussed on looking for performance and driver comfort.”

After graduating in Engineering at INSA Lyon, Laurent Fregosi joined Citroën Racing in 1995, when the ZX Grand Raid dominated the Dakar Rally. He has therefore worked on every rally programme since the Xsara Kit-Car. Appointed Chief Engineer, Chassis, in 2005, Laurent took over from Xavier Mestelan-Pinon at the start of the year. Involved for over a year on the 2017 programme, the new Technical Director reflected on the origins of the car.

“Seeing our World Rally Car complete two long test sessions on demanding surfaces without encountering any major problems is very satisfying and just rewards for those who have been working on this project for over a year,” said Laurent Fregosi. “As always, we began by drawing up a set of specifications, based on the FIA regulations and the brand’s marketing goals. Once we had chosen the base model, we retrieved the CAD data in order to define the layout of the main components: engine, transmission, fuel tank, spare wheel, etc. The design of the roll cage stemmed from all these volumes as well as the regulatory position of the crew.”

Called on to produce the initial drawings, the design office then went to work on designing each part: “The approach is always the same: design hard-wearing, light components, whilst implicitly looking to adjust and lower the centre of gravity. The crews, as well as the engineers and technicians that will be running the car, were asked to give their opinion. We still need, for example, to improve the removal of parts that are likely to be replaced in service.”

“As ever, the work done factored in the experience acquired over the last twenty years or so at the highest level of world rallying. But we also added to our knowledge base by completing tests with a DS 3 WRC development mule,” revealed Laurent Fregosi. “Having reduced the pace of its development in 2014, we wanted to try out a few new solutions for the future. We used a Citroën C-Elysée WTCC engine, which meant the car immediately possessed the same power level as we’ll see next year. We also tested the latest suspension systems.”

Built in less than a month, the assembly of the first prototype involved the efforts of various teams:
“It was a critical moment because some components took a long time to manufacture. In the workshops, the technicians adopted a just-in-time approach, so that we would be ready on schedule. Although we have already completed two test sessions, we’ve only just begun the journey. Analysing the data and driver feedback helps us to develop the technical definition whilst selecting the most efficient solutions. As the same time, we are also preparing a second car, which will be shortly used for testing on tarmac. This iterative way of working – which affects all areas, from the chassis to the engine, including the transmission and the aerodynamics – will continue until we need to obtain homologation of the car for the 2017 Rallye Monte-Carlo. That point seems so far away, and yet it’ll be here before we know it!”


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Topics: citroen, wrc, rally car



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