CITROËN REVEALS ITS CREWS FOR THE 2017 AND 2018 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Step by step, Citroën Racing continues to assemble the necessary ingredients for its return as a works team in the FIA World Rally Championship. Since April of this year, the Citroën C3 WRC has completed seven development tests, both on gravel and tarmac, and is now very close to the final version.
Until 16 October, visitors to the Paris Motor Show can also admire the Citroën C3 WRC concept car, a veritable exercise in style that heralds the new generation of World Rally Cars, which are set to make their competitive debut at the 2017 Rallye Monte-Carlo.
By announcing now their driver and co-driver line-up for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Citroën Racing takes another important step forward, one which has been highly anticipated by many WRC observers!
After confirming Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle at the end of last year, the line-up is now completed by two crews considered to be among the most promising young talents in the WRC. Having come to prominence in the rally programmes of the PSA Group and competing this season for the Abu Dhabi Total WRT, Craig Breen/Scott Martin and Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau convinced Citroën to put their faith in youth.
This choice is very much in line with Citroën’s long-held policy aimed at identifying and developing talented young rally drivers. In the last 15 years or more, Citroën has identified some of the best in the business: Loeb, Ogier, Sordo, Neuville, Camilli and of course Meeke. Breen and Lefebvre are destined to add their names to this illustrious list!
At the start of the season, the team will enter two Citroën C3 WRCs: one for Kris Meeke and the other for either Craig Breen or Stéphane Lefebvre, who will alternate driving duties. The exact distribution of events to drivers will be announced at a later stage and Citroën will start entering three cars as soon as possible. The FIA’s World Motorsport Council recently decided it would let manufacturers enter three cars, the top two scoring points towards the Manufacturers World Championship.
At some rounds of the 2017 World Championship, a fourth Citroën C3 WRC will also be entered for Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson.
Already involved in the development of the Citroën C3 WRC, Kris Meeke, Craig Breen, Stéphane Lefebvre and Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi will continue to conduct testing until the new car completes homologation. At the same time, they will be competing at this year’s Rally de España (Meeke, Breen, Al-Qassimi) and Wales Rally GB (Meeke, Breen, Lefebvre) in order to acquire experience driving the current cars.
Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal: “We had several scenarios regarding the choice of our crews for the future. Kris Meeke was confirmed at the end of last year and has become the natural leader of the team. As well as challenging for the lead on each of his appearances in 2016, winning in Portugal and in Finland, he has also done most of the development work for our Citroën C3 WRC. In choosing two young crews to complete the line-up, I don’t think we can be accused of having gone for the easy option. But this original solution is very much aligned with Citroën’s mindset. And having seen them compete this season for the Abu Dhabi Total WRT, we believe in the potential of Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre. They have the natural talent, motivation and work ethic to win rallies. I would also say we are proud to take these young drivers – who have been with the PSA Group for many years – up to the top level of the sport. At the start of the season, we’ll have no choice but to have them take turns behind the wheel in the second Citroën C3 WRC. However, as soon as possible, our three crews will be starting each round. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi is a true ambassador for rallying in the Middle-East and we are very pleased to support him in his approach.”
LANCE STROLL IS THE FIRST NORTH-AMERICAN ON THE EUROPEAN F3 THRONE
So far, the laurels of the FIA Formula 3 European Champion often remained in Europe, with only few drivers from a different continent being able to win. Thanks to Canadian Lance Stroll (Prema Powerteam), North-America is now on the winners’ list as well as he wrapped up an early 2016 FIA Formula 3 European Championship title at Imola. The 17-year-old development driver of the Williams Formula 1 team was the dominant driver this season and already scored his third title in car racing.
Lance Stroll’s debut in automobile racing was promising: in his maiden season, he already won the title in the Italian Formula 4 championship. After a successful foray to New Zealand, where he won the Toyota Racing Series early in 2015, the FIA Formula 3 European Championship was the logical next step. There, however, the Montreal-born youngster initially was having a hard time, but he came back stronger after a difficult spell, in which he caught the attention with a spectacular accident, and became a regular contender for podium finishes in the second half of the 2015 season. Stroll scored his maiden race win in the hard-fought FIA Formula 3 European Championship while still in his debut season. “Psychologically, it was important to go into the winter break like this,” he reflects on his first year in Formula 3. “This victory really boosted my confidence and somehow it also paved the way for the successful season that followed.”
With this steep learning curve and his success in 2015, Lance was one of the pre-season favourites for 2016. With his victory in the opening race of the season, he also showed that he lived up to this role. Then, however, the teenager had to wait for ten races to add his second win of the year, but from that point on, he went on to score another eight race wins, making his mark on the season in an impressive way. “Being able to call myself the new FIA Formula 3 European Champion is a fantastic feeling, I can’t find any words to describe it,” he beamed after his early title win at Imola.
Lance Stroll, who describes his character as calm, composed and competitive, is the son of a well-to-do father who is earning his money in the clothing business. Lawrence Stroll is accompanying his son to every race and is supporting him wherever he can. “For me, this support is very important, especially as he only ever wants the best for me and is doing everything to get it,” Lance says about his father. “However, he isn’t giving me any advice about how to drive or how to set up my race car. Fortunately, he knows exactly where his place at the race track is,” Lance says with a smile.
The fact that there are always people who explain his success with the contents of his father’s wallet doesn’t affect the Geneva-based youngster in any way. “I am not wasting my time on that,” Stroll says. “According to me, I have made it clear at the track often enough that I am quick. However, I reckon that these people are not going to change their mind anyway, no matter how many races and titles I will still win during my career.”
A successful racing driver Lance Stroll may be, but racing isn’t the only thing on his mind. “Currently, I am finishing my high school education,” he tells. “Admittedly, school isn’t my favourite thing, but I understand that a proper education is important. Like that, I have something to rely on even in case it doesn’t work out with motorsport as I want it to. And on top of that, had it not been for proper results at school, my parents wouldn’t have allowed me to spend time in motorsport anyway.”
In his time off, the Canadian, who currently is single, likes to be involved in sports, to meet up with friends and to travel. “In Europe, that is considerably easier than for instance in my home country, Canada, because everything is much closer together here.” He has been living in Europe since the age of twelve, but he is still feeling as a Canadian. “That is where I was born and where I grew up and I am proud to represent my country.” Stroll, who is now living in Geneva and is considering Michael Schumacher and American basketball star LeBron James as his heroes, is visiting his old country two or three times a year. “I try to fly to Canada for a few weeks in the summer and over Christmas. Sometimes, I manage to get there for Easter, too.”
He doesn’t yet know where he will be racing next season. “I can’t say yet. In any case, my goal is Formula 1 and that is what I am working on.” He mentioned that he has spent two and a half days of testing with a 2014-spec Williams Formula 1 car, and he was impressed. “This car is great, but I have also noticed that the FIA Formula 3 European Championship is a very good way to prepare for Formula 1. I feel that I am ready for this challenge.”
RICCIARDO WINS IN MALAYSIA MAX IN SECOND KABLAMO FOR LCH
NIKO KARI SCORES MAIDEN FIA FORMULA 3 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP RACE WIN
Event: 09 Imola
Session: Race 1
Track: Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari / Italy
Pole position: Lance Stroll (Prema Powerteam)
Race winner: Niko Kari (Motopark)
Weather: sunny, 23.4 °C
With a courageous overtaking move after the restart following the second safety car intervention, Niko Kari (Motopark) caught out Lance Stroll (Prema Powerteam) and went on to win the 25th race of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship season. At the 4.909 kilometres long Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, points’ leader Stroll finished in second place while Joel Eriksson (Motopark) reached the finish in third place. As Stroll’s main rival Maximilian Günther (Prema Powerteam) finished twelfth and didn’t score any points, the Williams F1 team development driver now has a 86 points’ margin in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship drivers’ standings. In its home round at Imola, Italian squad Prema Powerteam already wrapped up the title in the teams’ standings.
The race started well for Lance Stroll, who managed to convert his pole position into the race lead. After Pedro Piquet (Van Amersfoort Racing) had beached his car in the gravel trap on lap six, the safety car was deployed. After the restart, Stroll held on to his lead. On lap 13, David Beckmann (kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport) also stranded in the gravel trap following a duel with Sérgio Sette Câmara (Motopark), which caused the second safety car intervention. As racing resumed two laps later, Niko Kari then made a move on Lance Stroll, taking the outside line into the first corner to overtake the Canadian. Having led the field for six laps, the Finnish Red Bull junior driver then celebrated his maiden FIA Formula 3 European Championship race win.
Behind him, Lance Stroll and Joel Eriksson finished in second and third place respectively, followed by Nick Cassidy (Prema Powerteam). Because the New-Zealander had exceeded the track limits during the race, he was given a 20 seconds’ post-race time penalty, after which he dropped back to tenth. George Russell (HitechGP), Anthoine Hubert (Van Amersfoort Racing), Guanyu Zhou (Motopark), Ralf Aron (Prema Powerteam), Ben Barnicoat (HitechGP) and Harrison Newey (Van Amersfoort Racing) were classified in fourth to ninth place in that order.
Niko Kari (Motopark): “It was a good race and scoring my maiden victory in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship is a nice feeling. In the first part of the race, I tried to save my tyres as much as possible. At the second restart, I had to make my move on Lance, even though it wasn’t without risk. However, it worked out and I was able to win the race. Now, however, our full focus is on second qualifying this afternoon.”
Lance Stroll (Prema Powerteam): “My start and my first restart were good and even at the second restart, I didn’t do anything wrong. However, Niko was close enough to benefit from the slipstream and overtake me going into the first corner. I didn’t want to take too many risks while defending my position, because I didn’t want to risk a retirement. I scored solid points by finishing second, which is more important for me at the moment.”
Joel Eriksson (Motopark): “Initially, I was as quick as the drivers up front, but first of all, I had to work my way past Anthoine Hubert, George Russell and Nick Cassidy. After that, I tried to increase the pressure on Lance, but I wasn’t able to topple him from second place.”