Racing a Citroën C1 at Spa? Yes, really!
Night racing in the most unlikely car on the market Back in the day, Citroën 2CV racing series was tremendously popular, providing cheap, fun motorsport for the masses. Now we have its successor – the Citroën C1 Racing Club, which caters for the French brand’s three-door city car. It doesn’t sound especially exciting, but here’s the thing; we sent a colleague to take part in a race at the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, and he reported that it was one of the very best drives he’d had in 20 years of writing about cars. So, what does Citroën C1 racing entail? Well for a start, modifications are restricted. Most interior components still have to be present and correct, such as the dash, stereo and even the window winders. You can remove carpets and the like, however. Mechanically, the engine exhaust and intake must be factory spec, while the suspension set-up can be only moderately tuned. Essentially, you have 68bhp to play with, fed to the front wheels via the five-speed transmission. Wheelspin is unlikely to be an issue.
The lure of the Citroën C1 series has already attracted more than 80 teams – which just goes to show that motorsport is the affordable preserve of everyman, not merely for the well heeled. Next year’s big event will be a 24-hour race at the UK’s Rockingham speedway, which will see 70 C1s on the grid. To find out just how it will feel, our man Matt Prior flew to Spa to take part in a 24-hour race in which C1s made up about half of the 108-car grid. He discovered that racing the tiny French city car is anything but dull – even if it does a lap in twice the time it takes in a Formula One car. He reported: “It doesn’t matter how thrilling a road car is, racing at Spa in the dark, even with 68bhp, is absolutely brilliant. It may not be very quick, but turning into Eau Rouge at 90mph in the dark and the rain, with wipers smearing water relatively ineffectively across oil and filth, only a few inches from another car, it all felt real enough to me.”
He continued: “Besides, the suspension changes mean that there’s some chassis adjustability, too. The steering remains pretty uncommunicative, the brakes are superb, the gearshift light and the engine revvy. And even on a big, senior circuit, it’s great fun. In places at Spa you have to take a deep breath before turning in flat, places where you have to brake heavily, and places where your foot is pressed so hard to the floor that you emerge from a stint with an aching right calf.” The diminutive C1 racer clearly punches well above its weight on a huge circuit such as Spa – just imagine what fun it will be on smaller tracks. Roll on Rockingham 2018.