A Works Citroën Sport entrant in the 1991, 1992 and 1993 Paris-Dakar Rallies
Played an integral role in Citroën Sport’s victory in the inaugural FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallying in 1993
Raced by the 1981 World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen and retained by Citroën until 2011, since when it has had just one private owner
The subject of a nut-and-bolt restoration by the French rally-raid specialist Phillippe Gache’s Team SMG Challenge
Accompanied by comprehensive documentation from the 1991, 1992 and 1993 Paris-Dakar, the like of which we’ve never seen before
Chassis no. Citroen Sport C05
The Citroën ZX Rallye-Raid
We don’t know about you, but we were swept up in the excitement of this year’s Dakar Rally. The jaw-dropping vistas, brutally challenging terrain and the will-he won’t-he anticipation as the nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb chased his first Dakar victory. Alas, it wasn’t to be for the decorated Frenchman, but something tells us that won’t stop him returning to Saudi Arabia again.
Today, the most famous rally-raid event of them all is a very different and altogether more sanitised affair to what it once was, however. For starters, it’s no longer held on the continent in which it was created and after which it’s named. For many (us included) the heyday of the sport was the 1990s, when rally-raid diehards such as René Metge, Cyril Neveu and Alain Ambrosino and were joined on their epic adventures by the esteemed likes of Ari Vatanen, Jacky Ickx and Jean-Louis Schlesser. Mitsubishi, Peugeot and Land Rover were staples, but it’s the yellow Camel-sponsored and red Total-sponsored Citroën ZX Rallye-Raids which captured the most hearts.
From a technological perspective, the ZX Rallye-Raid traces its roots back to the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 from the defunct Group B rally category. That the mechanical blueprint for the Peugeot proved to be the basis of an incredibly effective rally-raid truck should have come as no surprise. The 205 Turbo 16 was the only Group B car to win the World Rally Championship twice, which, when you consider the ferocity of the formula and the sheer strength of the opposition, is one hell of an achievement. Naturally, as Citroën Sport campaigned the ZX from 1990-onwards, so the team implemented its own innovations and evolutional changes.
With the might of a factory budget and the will of an entire nation behind them, the ZXs were the undisputed class of the field. Contesting classic events spanning the globe such as the Pharoah’s Rally in Egypt, the Baja Aragon in Spain, the Atlas Rally in Morocco and, of course, the Paris-Dakar Rally, these French behemoths won a staggering 36 of the 42 races they entered and won the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallying five times on the bounce between 1993 and 1997.
This Citroën ZX Rallye Raid Evo 2
The ZX Rallye-Raid we were thrilled to be able to acquire in 2021 left Citroën Sport in 1990, designated with the internal number C05. Its competition résumé comprises five events between 1990 and 1993, all contested under the Works banner. C05’s maiden outing came at the 1990 Pharoah’s Rally, an epic 3,700-mile race along the banks of the River Nile in Egypt. None other than the 1981 World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen took the wheel, while Bruno Berglund read the notes. In one of the ZX’s very first events, the duo indicated its clear potential with a solid fourth-place finish.
Next up was the big one: the 1991 Paris-Tripoli-Dakar Rally – 9,186km from France through Libya, Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal to Dakar. Of the 184 cars entered, the French duo of Alain de Ambrosino and Alain Guéhennec drove a mature race, avoiding major trouble to finish an impressive sixth overall. Vatanen in the sister ZX wrote Citroën history by winning outright. It was his third consecutive Paris-Dakar win and fourth in total, a record which stands to this day.
In October of 1991, C05 returned to the Pharoah’s Rally in the hands of Ambrosino. In a demonstration of force telling of the dominance Citroën was beginning to enjoy in international cross-country rallying, the three yellow ZXs crossed the finish line at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza in first, second and third places. Ambrosino and Guéhennec rounded off the podium.
In 1992, for the first time in its 14-year history, the Paris-Dakar Rally diverted its traditional route and concluded in Cape Town. The Goliath 12,500km journey, which was contested by 133 cars, traversed 11 different countries. Citroën Sport fielded five ZX Rallye-Raids, one of which was designated to the veritable motorsport legend Jacky Ickx. This car was piloted by Pierre Lartigues and Patrick Destaillats. C05 was seventh at the finish, though most notably, Lartigues drove like a scalded cat on the 14th stage from Oyem to Franceville, recording the quickest outright time.
The final event this ZX Rallye-Raid entered was the following year’s Paris-Tangier-Dakar Rally, which returned to its original shorter route. Ambrosino and Guéhennec were in the cockpit of this ZX, which had been updated to Evo 2 specification and refinished in the team’s new red Total livery. The French duo matched the car’s previous result of seventh overall. C05 was dutifully retired from active service followings its third Paris-Dakar and used by Citroën for testing a variety of technical evolutions, predominantly concerning the engine. In 1994, the car was registered in the name of Automobiles Citroën and tucked away in the manufacturer’s prized collection of heritage vehicles at its factory in Aulnay.
That’s where C05 would remain until 2011, when the factory took the decision to part with the car. Its first – and only – private owner promptly took the decision to have his new ZX Rallye-Raid restored to its former glory, entrusting the project to the renowned French rally-raid specialist Philippe Gache and his talented team at Team SMG Challenge.
Spanning two years, the fastidious process was started by stripping the car back to its bare chassis, which was then dipped and repainted. The engine and gearbox were then stripped, restored and reassembled. All parts prone to wear were subsequently inspected and, if required, repaired or replaced. Girardo & Co. agreed to acquire the car in July of 2021.
Prior to receiving it here at Belchers Farm, we commissioned Team SMG Challenge to carry out a number of remedial works to ensure it was ready and safe to be driven. These included replacing all fluids, rebuilding the brake calipers, replacing the low-pressure submerged fuel tanks and replacing the lower dry sump seal.
The first event at which we exhibited C05 to the public was the 2021 Goodwood Festival of Speed, where we took it up the world-famous hill climb as part of the ‘Ultimate Rally Cars’ class. We were taken aback with the overwhelmingly positive response to the car – it proved a serious hit both at the event and on social media throughout the weekend. Goodwood itself even produced a great video with Max Girardo talking through the ZX, which you can watch by clicking here.
On the back of this Citroën’s popularity at Goodwood, we were invited to exhibit the car at two further events in the summer of 2021: Rally Day at Castle Combe and the Salon Privé Concours d’Elegance at Blenheim Palace. Following these excursions, we returned chassis C05 to the renowned rally car preparation specialists at BGMsport, where an inspection was carried out and a newly fabricated fuel cell was fitted. Furthermore, in order to preserve the precious original wheels and period tyres, we have had six wheels refabricated to the original specification and design, shod with new rubber.
By the end of Citroën’s dominant rally-raid programme in 1997, just 19 ZXs – in their various guises – remained. Chassis C05 is one of the rare few which escaped the clutches of the factory and wound up in the possession of a private owner – somebody who had the foresight and respect to invest in a comprehensive restoration to return the car to its former glory.
In addition to our signature red leather-bound Girardo & Co. history file in which we’ve extensively researched and documented this ZX Rallye-Raid’s history, including procuring a selection of high-resolution photos of the car in action during its period Works career, we’ve also sourced a mind-blowing wealth of documentation for the rally-raid events it contested. This includes everything from thick bibles of driver pace notes, spectator guides, media itineraries and journalists’ first-hand notes to stage timesheets, maps and manufacturer schedules – a nostalgic and amazingly detailed snapshot of the epic adventures in which it partook. The proverbial cherries on the cake are the two Works Citroën Sport suits from the 1991 season.
C05 is now ready for a new custodian to write its next chapter - whether you want to tear up the Duke of Richmond’s world-famous driveway in front of thousands of onlookers during the Goodwood Festival of Speed or contest the Dakar Classic, a fantastic new event for classic rally-raid cars which shadows the modern Dakar over two weeks in Saudi Arabia. For the intrepid among you, the latter really is one of the greatest and most challenging adventures you’re likely to face with a motorcar. As the late founder of the Paris-Dakar Rally Thierry Sabine famously said, the Dakar is “a challenge for those who go, and a dream for those who stay behind.”
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