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GP Week : Issue 158
36 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Meet a car that in rallying terms is suddenly in vogue. It’s the Citroen DS3, but not the four-wheel-drive World Rally Car which Sebastien Loeb has done much in the twilight era of his rally career to immortalise in the sport. This is its front-wheel drive lookalike, the car they call the DS3 R3. Citroen have recently achieved a remarkable production level of 100 examples in 21 months of these competition version DS3 cars. This high- performance production model was only homologated in August 2010, and made its world debut on the British championship Ulster Rally in the hands of Bryan Bouffier later that month. From that moment onwards Citroen Racing immediately embarked on a major and innovative experience-finding exercise. Expert drivers such as Kris Meeke, Elwis Chentre, Marc Amourette, Stephane Sarrazin, Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier used the car on the sorts of events on which customers were expected to compete. In the hands of these established experts the car was immediately successful, scoring five category wins in the remaining months of the 2010 season. Citroen said this programme provided important feedback not only for their technicians but also for the tyre suppliers and at the same time provided good visibility in the media world. The main area of activity for the 1.6 litre turbo DS3 R3 cars last year was the Citroen Racing Trophy, in 10 different countries, in which financial incentives are provided by prizes for the successful drivers. In private hands the DS3 R3 has now already started to win rallies outright, notably in the front-wheel drive British championship events, in Germany and in Italy. Citroen, the manufacturer who started to produce cars under Group R rules two years before the formula became internationally valid, have already moved on from their original small normally aspirated C2 R2 model. In the meantime their associated Peugeot company started to produce their 1.6 turbo 207 RC in early 2009, but that car was intended for a lower level customer market, such as Le Volant find-a -driver competition, but it was never to be competitive against R3cars such as Honda and Renault. The Citroen has a quite different and more powerful basic 1.6 turbo power unit, the joint BMW-PSA Group Prince mass production engine (on which the Mini World Rally Car design incidentally is based), and is fitted as standard with sequential gearbox with steering wheel mounted paddle gear shift. Design experience with the DS3 WRC has provided feedback for reinforcing the bodyshell with a welded-in multi-point roll cage. The outright performance figures of the DS3 R3 may be statistically inferior to R3 rivals but the engine, chassis and especially suspension have been tuned to provide the best solutions available under R3T rules. To Citroen and their customers, that makes all the difference. Tom Cave, winner of the Bulldog Rally, second round of the 2012 British series, gives an insight: “The DS3 is not a cheap car but it is good value. Running costs are higher than the Subaru Group N car we ran last year, but then the DS3 is a far more sophisticated car, developed specifically for competition. There is a published cost for rebuilding, and the car is incredibly strong and reliable. “The turbo engine drives very much like a Group N car except that the harder you push, the better it gets. In that respect it is a bit like a Super 2000. In my opinion, I feel it is more comfortable on asphalt than gravel, but it is still very good on gravel. The paddle shift is user-friendly. It is very forgiving. It is easy to find the limit and stay here!” About the only people unhappy with the DS3 R3T cars are the spectators. It is the same old problem that Group N cars used to have. The cars just do not sound purposeful. The 2011 British Citroen Racing Trophy winner Desi Henry said “The DS3 is very deceiving at times. It is a lot quieter than the C2 R2 Max which I rallied previously.” Citroen are currently on a mission with their customer competition programme. Homologated since March 1 is the normally aspirated 1.6 litre DS3 Group R1, earmarked for the forthcoming French Rallye Jeune find-a-driver project. Coming along in the pipeline but details of which have not been finalised is a four wheel R5 version, while all the time the DS3 World Rally Car versions edges ahead as the leader of the sport. RALLY >>> FEATURE TON-UP FOR THE DS3 R3 A Story of Success for the Private Rally man