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Ever wondered what it’s like to drive a modern-era WRC rally car? Before we blast up the hill at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed with our new Citroën C4 WRC, a car in which Sébastien Loeb won four rounds of the 2008 World Rally Championship, Max Girardo travelled to a top-secret location in Wales for a maiden shakedown. And we thought we’d take you along for the ride…

It’s been one helluva secret to keep under our hats for what’s felt like an eternity, but we’re absolutely thrilled to be able to introduce you to our new Citroën C4 WRC, which will make its debut at the 2021 Goodwood Festival of Speed. Chassis number 14 was a Works Citroën Sport entrant in the 2008 World Rally Championship driven by the greatest rally driver of all time, Sébastien Loeb, to a staggering four victories – victories which proved instrumental in securing the fifth of his record nine titles.

Those four victories were at the rallies any driver worth his salt wants to win: Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo (Loeb’s fifth win in the principality, another record statistic), Rally d’Italia Sardegna, Rally Deutschland and Wales Rally GB. In addition, chassis 14 was campaigned by the Citroën Junior Rally Team in the 2009 and ’10 World Rally Championships, during which time it was driven by none other than Kimi Räikkönen, the 2007 Formula 1 World Champion.

Vanquish. It’s the only word we can find which adequately describes what Sébastien Loeb and the Citroën C4 WRC did to their competition in the World Rally Championship from 2007 to 2010. Of the staggering 34 victories the C4 clinched, Loeb and his longstanding co-driver Daniel Elena scored 34 of them. And they were unbeaten on asphalt.

“Vanquish. It’s the only word we can find which adequately describes what Sébastien Loeb and the Citroën C4 WRC did to their competition in the World Rally Championship from 2007 to 2010.”

In the process, the Frenchman won his fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh drivers’ titles. And Citroën reclaimed the manufacturers crown from Ford, winning the 2008, 2009 and 2010 titles. Loeb and the C4 WRC are synonymous. They go together like, well, like French wine and cheese.

The inherent speed and robustness of the C4 WRC guaranteed its longevity almost immediately, and as was the case with virtually all of the 22 cars built and rallied by Citroën Sport, chassis 14 was subsequently campaigned by privateers in national rally championships across Europe. Since acquiring the car towards the end of 2020, we have returned it to the exact specification and livery in which the car thrashed the competition at Rally Deutschland in 2008, in time for its starring appearance at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Before taking to the start line at Goodwood, however, we thought it was probably sensible for Max to shake down the car and get a good feel for what it’s like to drive. Max has been lucky enough to drive a broad selection of rally cars over the years, but nothing quite as modern or technologically sophisticated as the Citroën. Naturally, Max dipping his toe in the C4 WRC water for the first time quickly became a concept for a Girardo & Co. video. And so, with a former military weapons storage base deep in the Welsh forest proving more than a suitable venue for the occasion, that’s exactly what we did.

From a visual point of view, the rally car Loeb drove with such devastating effect largely resembled the quirky and very French production C4 upon which it was based. From a technological perspective, however, the two cars were worlds apart. The rorty two-litre turbocharged engine produces an ample 315HP, which, when coupled with the steering-wheel-mounted paddle-operated six-speed sequential gearbox, a sophisticated four-wheel-drive system and a dry weight of just over 1,200kg, makes for a scintillating driving experience.

And as the video demonstrates, from the cockpit, the C4 WRC is what we can only liken to a surgeon’s scalpel. It’s so sharp and precise and fast – dizzyingly fast. The gearshifts are like gunshots, arriving relentlessly quickly, one after the other. The nose darts around like a mouse, and although it might not look dramatic from the outside, there’s a serious amount of power and force wriggling through the chassis at full pelt. It also sounds extraordinary: a loud, demonic howl which bounces off the scenery.

We appreciate that travel of any kind is difficult at the moment, but if you do happen to be heading to the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year, you’ll be able to witness the car in the metal and understand just what we’re raving about. The Citroën is just one of five cars we’ll be bringing to Goodwood.If you check back at early next week, we’ll be profiling each of these cars and telling you exactly where and when you can see them in action throughout the weekend. We’re very much looking forward to reuniting with many of our clients and friends old and new there.Video: Tom May for Salterns Media / Photos: Tom Shaxson