Citroen first experimented with high performance four-wheel-drive rally cars on their unhappy BX4TC in 1985, and it was not till 1999 that they tried again with the Xsara T4.
This car was permitted in French championship events in 2000, where it would not conflict with the WRC activities entrusted by the corporate group to Peugeot.
Philippe Bugalski won eight national championship rallies, seven on asphalt and one on gravel, and then the local driver, Jesus Puras, won a rally with the T4 in Spain in 2001.
The car was finally homologated by the FIA as the Xsara WRC and allowed to compete in selected WRC events in 2001.
After victories in various non WRC events in Spain and Germany, the 16 year 4x4 struggle for the proud French company finally ended when they won the Tour de Corse, France’s round of the world championship, in October 2001.
Spaniard Jesus Puras took Citroen's first 4WD WRC win at Corsica in 2001. Photo: Martin Holmes
Puras had led from the second stage to the finish. It wasn’t a fully satisfactory occasion for the proud French company, because the driver who ended their long endeavour was Spanish!
The Xsara WRC went on to win 32 world championship rallies, all but four of them with French drivers.
In addition to Puras’s Corsica win, fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz won two, and Belgian Francois Duval one.
Apart from winning the FIA’s Production Rally Car title in 1994 in a Ford, Puras was never well known outside Spain, but back home he won 58 rallies and the national championship title eight times.
He retired from rallying at the end of 2007, but recently his motorsport activities have been in cross country events – on two wheels.
Jesus Puras (right) and co-driver Marc Marti celebrate their Tour de Corse win. Photo: Maurice Selden
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