Citroën WRT has announced they are leaving the World Rally Championship with immediate effect, despite having already half-drawn their season plans for 2020. According to the press release issued by the team, it is the sudden departure of Sébastien Ogier that is behind their decision. Their star driver had unilaterally decided not to fulfil the remaining year in his contract with French brand.
Citroën has continued explaining in its statement that faced with the unavailability of first-class drives to sign on, they have decided to cancel their WRC project altogether. The harsh words of the team officials regarding the quality of the available drivers might not have gone down very well with some of them.
The return to Citroën WRT of the six-time world champion in 2019 didn’t go quite as planned despite initially seeming like a big fairy-tale. At the Rally Monte Carlo, Ogier got the 100th victory for the French team, and he did so precisely at the teams 100th anniversary year. In the end, it turned out to be just a short-lived mirage. As the year progressed, the superiority of the Ott Tänak-Toyota combo was increasingly apparent, and Ogier’s frustration was growing simultaneously. The performance of his C3WRC was obviously lacking, rendering him unable to fight for the champagne positions.
Leaving M-Sport for Citroën was like going back home for Sebs, and he did so with the clear objective of winning his seventh crown, but soon he realised that that was not going to happen. Ogier understood that his great talent and skill would not be enough to compensate for the deficiencies of his machine. From that moment on things started to cool down between the driver and his team.
In the midst of this situation, Ogier started to demand improvements which always took too long to arrive. The complaints of the driver from Gap were increasingly bitter. The distrust on his own team was growing as his chances to fight for the title evaporated. The final divorce took place during the Spain Rally. A mechanical fault obliterated his remaining title chances, breaking a relationship that had been deteriorating for many months. Ogier’s feelings were somehow exemplified by a tweet published by Seb’s wife.
After Citroën’s new mechanical failure, she posted a chain of emoticons depicting excrements. Ogier’s disappointment and fatigue with his decaying team, which hardly resembled the ambitious formation of past times, pushed him to finally throw the towel. Before that happened, during the summer months, a desperate Ogier attempted to reach an agreement with Hyundai.
Negotiations didn’t bear fruit, and so, at one point, he even considered returning to M-Sport. Currently, the most likely option for Ogier would be Toyota. Although his relationship with team principal Tommi Makinen is not great, the vacancy left by Tänak could be his only way out.
Rumours have continued to intensify in this respect over the last few hours, with some sources suggest that an agreement could be reached during the coming days. The great performance of the Yaris WRC, world champion in 2019, could be a great opportunity for the Frenchman if he does not want to say goodbye to the competition through the back door.
With Citroen’s departure, Esapekka Lappi has also been left without a team. The poor Finn also has very little chances of finding a new contract with only a month and a half remaining before the start of the new season. Citroën WRT could perhaps support some private teams in the WRC. There are also rumours about his joining of WRC2, where it would take the place of Skoda.
Images of Citroën WRT: Citroën Racing.