Rally Car: Citroën Xsara

The Citroen Xsara has received the AUTOSPORT Award for Rally Car of the Year. The French manufacturer's effort with the Xsara has been recognised thanks to its outstanding all-round performance to take what was ultimately a surprise victory in the Manufacturers' World Rally Championship this year

Rally Car: Citroën Xsara

The title-winning performance of the Xsara WRC is more remarkable because the machine was in its first full season of WRC competition, and was really supposed to be one of further learning and development for a team that was still relatively unfamiliar with gravel rallying. As was its star driver, Sébastien Loeb.

But nobody told Loeb or Citroen that they were meant to be the steady ones this year. The Xsara proved to be arguably the most versatile car in 2003. It retained its traditional might on asphalt (Loeb won in Monte Carlo, Germany and Sanremo), was tougher than most on the slow and rocky gravel events (winning in Turkey with Carlos Sainz), and even rattled cages on fast gravel, most notably in Loeb's fine drive to second in Australia.



Loeb can be forgiven for not quite sealing the drivers' title this year. He did more than was expected of him. He ensured the Xsara could boast of the manufacturers' crown with a measured drive to second on the final round in Wales.

Tom Wheatcroft presented the award to the Citroen sporting manager Francois Chatriot, who commented: "This car can still improve. I think the championship is going to be much tougher next year."

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