In a surprising turn of events, Citroen announced this morning that they will be discontinuing their WRC programme with immediate effect. The news came prematurely amid widespread speculation that Citroen would depart the WRC before the new 2022 hybrid regulations, but the shock came as Citroen announced they will not contest the 2020 season. Citroen cited the reason as being the departure of Sebastien Ogier from the team and the lack of a high quality driver to lead the team into 2020.
There are background factors that may have influenced this decision, Ogiers departure being the chosen reason, but Citroen, owned by PSA is in a state of flux at the moment. PSA has recently announced that they are actively in talks with FCA (Fiat, Chrysler & Alfa Romeo) in regards to a merger, which would see a VAG style conglomerate formed. There is also the recent announcement of Peugeot returning to Le Mans and the WEC in 2022 under the new hypercar regulations, both of which will add a significant business & financial strain on PSA.
Another factor may be Citroens difficulty in the WRC since 2012, Citroen have not looked like a championship challenger since then. 2019 was Citroens best year in a long time, but rotten luck in Catalunya scuppered any chance of denying Ott Tanak the drivers championship. It was a bad end to what has been a breakout season for Citroen under the current regulations.
The current line in WRC driver land is that Ogier has joined Toyota along with Elfyn Evans, with an announcement supposedly due imminently. But, this has not been confirmed or corroborated by Toyota, the less likely scenario is Ogier may rejoin Ford’s M Sport squad which Ogier won the championship with in 2017 & 2018, it is likely we will find out where Ogier will be driving in the next couple of weeks.
The game of musical chairs started when Ott Tanak announced his departure from Toyota after winning the championship, with Tanak bound for Hyundai for the 2020 season. Hyundai’s full driver line is yet to be confirmed, so there is still the un-answered question of where Thierry Neuville will be driving in 2020, will he stay at Hyundai or will he join Toyota or Ford?
Citroens departure leaves young hopeful Esapekka Lappi in a difficult situation for 2020. Put simply, Lappi does not have a drive for the 2020 season and it is not apparent if he has anything planned. One thing is for sure, Citroens departure has caught many off-guard, and the confirmation that Ogier has left the team has let the genie out of the bottle, so to speak, in regard to him moving to another team.