It all started when Red Bull, a Citroën Total World Rally Team partner since 2008, came up with an idea: what if Citroën Racing and Sébastien Loeb took part in the X Games Los Angeles 2012 and took on Travis Pastrana, another icon supported by the drink that gives you wings? Citroën and its leading driver were drawn to the idea and the challenge of battling it out in the west, and wasted no time in taking up the gauntlet.
Eight-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb has 71 career wins at 23 different rallies, as far apart as Sweden and Australia, and including Mexico, Japan and Jordan. The prospect of racing in a new setting does not therefore bother him in the slightest: “I love racing and I’m always interested in trying out new categories. A week after the New Zealand Rally has finished, I’ll be in Los Angeles to take up the challenge set for me by Travis! Rallycross here in Europe provides some very spectacular racing, but the American version seems to be even more extreme. So, I didn’t need to be asked twice when the opportunity arose to race against drivers like Marcus Grönholm in a 545bhp Citroën DS3!”
To maximize its chances of winning, Citroën Racing has developed a very special DS3 called XL, as in X Games and Loeb! Based on a car built by Hansen Motorsport, the seven-time World Rally Championship-winning team has introduced a healthy dose of Créative Technologie by making a series of modifications. “It’s always exciting to try out a new category and attempt to get the most out of the regulations,” confirmed Cyrille Jourdan, lead engineer for the project at Citroën Racing. “From a distance, the Rallycross DS3 looks quite similar to the WRC. Although the design of the chassis and suspension systems are fairly similar, the powertrain is fundamentally different. The DS3 XL’s two-liter turbo engine develops 545bhp and 800Nm of torque. Its acceleration isn’t far off that of an F1 car, covering 0 to 100kph in 2.4 seconds!”
Compared with a rally car, the lack of co-driver and spare wheels means the engineers are required to rework the weight distribution. “That’s why the water radiator has been moved into the boot,” continued Cyrille Jourdan. “The main visual difference between the WRC and the XL is the addition of cooling vents in the rear wings. This alteration is designed to achieve improved performance at the start, which is the most crucial phase in rallycross.”
After completing final preparations in Citroën Racing’s Versailles workshops, Citroën DS3 XL was put through its paces by Sébastien Loeb at the Dreux racetrack: “With four-wheel drive and the extra power, this DS3 really does go at some speed! We used these test sessions to try out a few different set-up options. However, we know that the American racetracks are very different and we’ll therefore have to adapt the car to the conditions there very quickly.” Set up on the Gilbert Lindsay Plaza, right next to the Staple Center which hosts the other X Games events, the temporary circuit features loose dirt portions and a jump of over 20 metres!
Aside from the prospect of taking part in what is undoubtedly a fun, spectator-oriented event, Citroën Racing and Loeb are determined to fight to win the race. “We were fully aware of the importance that Red Bull attaches to the X Games Los Angeles when we agreed to take part. Once we had actually committed to the project, we prepared for the event with the utmost seriousness,” confirmed Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Director. “As it’s a one-off event for us, we don’t have to worry about managing our position in the championship. There’s only one race and we are really determined to try and win it. It won’t be easy because it will all be new to us, compared with our rivals who are used to this type of racing, but we’ll be fighting every inch of the way!”