The Ulster Rally gets underway this week, based in Antrim to the north east of Ireland. The start of this event will have a special significance for the DS3 R3, which makes its competition debut. The crew of Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri are determined to showcase the capabilities of the latest challenger from Citroën to the best of their abilities.
Behind the scenes, the entire Citroën Racing team is eager to see their car in action, which was created in the French company’s workshops and then developed over a bespoke test programme. This will be the first time that the DS3 goes head to head with its rivals, before being offered for sale to customers. In a baptism of fire, Citroën’s latest two-wheel drive machine, equipped with a 210-horsepower engine, will rack up its first competitive miles on extremely specialised terrain. Irish asphalt is notorious for its lack of grip and bumpy surfaces, which the new car will face over the 205 stage kilometres of the rally. The famously changeable weather in Ulster could also play a key role over the course of the event. Whatever happens, French driver Bryan Bouffier – who was an important part of the new car’s development programme – will be doing his best to take the DS3 R3 towards the top of the leaderboard, although he will face considerably more powerful local opposition.
Jean-François Liénéré, in charge of customer competition at Citroën Racing, commented: “While we have been very pleased with our progress in testing, nothing replicates real competition. The Ulster Rally is a very tricky event where competitors have to deal with narrow roads that offer little grip. The variable weather conditions in Ireland are capable of springing both nice and nasty surprises so these are sure to be a determining factor in the outcome of the rally. The ideal result for us in Antrim would be to win Group R and finish in the top five overall. From a sporting point of view, Ireland and Great Britain are very important customer competition markets for our company. Citroën has a strong presence thanks to the Citroën Racing Trophy, which boasts a high profile and several top quality drivers. These people are very interested in the new DS3 R3 and I believe that our latest challenger will live up to all their expectations.”
Not only the drivers, but also thousands of fans are looking forward to seeing the new Citroën out in anger for the first time this week. The cars will be flagged off the ramp for the start of the Ulster Rally in the early afternoon of Friday 20 August.
Three questions to… Bryan Bouffier
You’ve been chosen for the competition debut of the Citroën DS3. How are you going to approach this event?
I was the first driver to test the Citroën DS3 R3 and now it is a great honour for me to be at the wheel when it has its first taste of competition. I’m going to start this rally hugely motivated, with my objective being to show the world just how fantastic this new car is.
This will be the first time that you have competed on a rally in Ireland. Have you already driven on similar surfaces?
It’s true that this is going to be a completely new experience for me: I’ve never had the chance before to contest any British or Irish Championship events. The roads in Ireland are well known for being bumpy with several jumps throughout the rally. But I’m not worried at all: I know that the DS3 R3 will be very forgiving and consistent on these types of roads, whatever the conditions.
You helped to develop the DS3 R3. What do you think of the car?
From the very first time I drove it, my feeling was immediately good. The Citroën DS3 R3 is easy to drive and it’s a huge pleasure to be behind the wheel. There are some interesting technical innovations as well. I’m thinking in particular of the hard work we accomplished on the suspension, but also on the torque from the engine and the sequential gearshift. All this makes the DS3 R3 a really formidable machine.