Citroen has declared that it would withdraw from the World Rally Championship for the 2020 season "due to a lack of a first-class driver." Sebastien Ogier, the team's main driver, finished third in the 2019 World Rally Championship, trailing Hyundai's Thierry Neuville and first-time WRC champion Ott Tanak. Before announcing its withdrawal, Citroen had been considering remaining in the series through at least 2021.
Ogier is expected to remain with the team for another year, while current Junior WRC driver Mads Ostberg has been confirmed as his replacement.
Citroen's departure leaves Ford Motor Company as the only major manufacturer still competing in the championship. The company announced in February that it will continue into the next decade, with a two-car entry run by Ford Performance and Gus von Drasek Racing.
The WRC has lost several teams over the years due to financial difficulties. In 2017, M-Sport withdrew from the championship after eight seasons, leaving Ford as the only major manufacturer still participating.
In January 2018, Peugeot announced it was withdrawing from the world rally scene at the end of this season, leaving only five manufacturers left in the championship.
Citroen's decision to quit comes just one year after it returned to the WRC with three cars. The French manufacturer had been absent from the category since 2009, when it ended its involvement due to poor results.
It has attributed its success in the World Rally Championship to improved sales of its automobiles, particularly the Subaru Impreza, as well as popularizing its all-wheel-drive technology. Due to the general economic slump, the team withdrew from WRC racing at the end of the 2008 season. The company has not returned to the championship since.
Subaru was founded by Japanese automotive pioneer Isamu Yokohama who started making car parts in 1963. In 1969, he introduced the first model that would become very popular worldwide: the Subaru Leone. This car had an inline-four engine and was available in either a four-door sedan or a two-door hatchback version. It was also the world's first mass-produced car with all-wheel drive technology. In 1972, the Legacy model replaced the Leone and remained in production for more than 10 years. In 1983, the XT model came out which was designed to compete with cars like the Audi 80 and the Mercedes-Benz 190E. However, it failed to attract buyers and only existed for one year before being replaced by the Forester. In 1990, the Impreza was launched and it became very successful; today, it is the best-selling all-wheel-drive vehicle in Japan!
In 2001, after having some difficulties selling cars in America, Subaru decided to withdraw from the American market after ending up with only 2% of the national market.
One of the key reasons, according to Barretto, is the failure of Renault's long-term plans: a podium in 2018 and a position as a strong challenger for the constructors' title in 2020. However, as Barretto knows, the club was unable to achieve these goals: "The team, commanded by Abiteboul, lost out on both by quite a little."
Renault had hoped that introducing Carlos Sainz Jr. would help it regain some ground against Mercedes and Ferrari, but this has not been the case so far. While the Spaniard has performed well during his first season with the team, he is not nearly good enough to be considered among the best drivers in the world.
Furthermore, due to financial constraints, Renault was not able to retain the services of several key members of its staff this past summer, which includes Director of Engineering James Allison and Chief Operating Officer Fabien Grellier.
It should also be noted that Jean-Eric Vergne, who has been with the team since 2014, will be leaving at the end of the season. Although no reason has been given for his departure, it has been rumored that he wants to drive for McLaren in 2019.
In conclusion, Abiteboul left Renault because they were unable to meet its objectives this season.