Interview - Budar : Citroën wants to reach 100 victories
With three drivers in two cars
Did the introduction of new technical regulations in 2017 meet the expectations of the brand?
They lived up to and even surpassed my expectations! The new regulations meant that everyone was dealt a new hand, and they also helped increase competition. They played a role in producing one of the most closely-contested championships that we have seen in the last fifteen years. Not only are the cars extremely spectacular, but they have also remained very reliable. And the new regulations have once again raised the standards: in the same way that F1 is the Holy Grail of single-seater racing, these new generation WRCs, that only the very best drivers can master, perfectly embody rallying’s top-flight cars.
So has the WRC been given the new impetus everyone hoped for?
Yes, especially as the promoter is continuing to work on increasing the profile of the WRC, which is already the second most popular motorsport category after F1. In order to increase contact with the fans, it will be broadcasting all of the stages live this year. This approach confirms our thinking that the brand made the right decision in returning to the WRC.
How would you assess the first season of the Citroën C3 WRC ?
After three world titles in track racing, we had to build on this newly-acquired knowledge and experience whilst getting back to grips with the specifics of
rallying. The difficulty of WRC lies, to a great extent, in the wide variety of the surfaces on which we compete, yet the season 2017 and the introduction of the new regulations was a real technological overturn. The work of Yves Matton and his team allowed us to offer a high performance car with its first stage win at Monte-Carlo and two rally wins during the season. The potential on tarmac was confirmed again in Corsica, where we led the rally for long periods, and then in Germany, where we finished as runners-up despite the tricky weather. This positive trend was confirmed on gravel, with a maiden win at Rally Mexico at the first event held on this surface. The technical teams worked hard to develop the car during the season and the success of Kris Meeke in Spain has shown the merit of the changes undertaken. Everyone showed exceptional determination and commitment to improve throughout the year, even if sometimes the results took longer to come than we might have hoped given our rich history in the sport. I want to salute the work of Yves Matton which allowed Citroën Racing to win three world titles in track racing and to be back at a high level in WRC.
What are your expectations from your drivers in 2018?
In 2018, we will capitalise on the experience acquired by Kris and Craig who know the team and the car well. Kris’s speed is unquestionable so the aim will be for him to target podiums and secure some wins
whilst also challenging for a good position in the championship. Meanwhile, Craig proved that he was the perfect foil, with some very consistent performances. There is still room for him to improve and aim even higher. 2018 will also be marked by the comeback of Sébastien Loeb on three rounds. I am delighted to see this great story, which began 18 years ago, continue.
And what about Stéphane Lefebre?
We still believe in Stéphane: we are convinced that he will be a good ambassador for the Citroën C3 R5, for which the brand has great hopes. And this programme will allow him to continue to add to his experience and therefore keep improving.
What are the targets for this second season with the Citroën C3 WRC?
Reach, or indeed even surpass, the milestone of a hundred WRC wins for Citroën. It would be a remarkable performance, providing further proof of our longevity at the highest level. This all began with our first WRC victory in 1999 at Rally Catalunya, secured by the late Philippe Bugalski in the Citroën Xsara Kit-Car. In light of what we learned in 2017, and the work completed during the winter, we can have legitimate hopes of claiming a few podiums and winning the two trophies we need to reach the mark, whilst Kris Meeke has the potential to be well placed in the championship.
More on WRC