Published on: Mar 26, 2016 @ 14:56 (C) Jay Auger - website owner & author Notice: Any form of duplication methods (including but not limited to copy/paste of text and screen capture) of the website's content is strictly forbidden.
From 1981 through 1983, enticed by rival Renault and their mid-engine, purpose-built R5 Turbo rally car, Citroën Compétitions‘ Guy Verrier ordered a massive study (Project Genesis) to find a suitable rally car for the upcoming Group B category. The contest, which was outsourced to multiple engineering firms, first led to the development of various rear-wheel drive (RWD) prototypes in 1981. In 1982, after the success of the Audi quattro, Verrier would commission only four-wheel drive (4×4 / 4WD) prototypes. In 1983, the winner amongst the 4WD prototypes would replace the then current and rather tame front-wheel drive Visa Trophée as Citroën’s entry-level international rally car.
QUICK BROWSE CONTENT
- VISA LOTUS
- #201 – VISA P / POLITECNIC
- #202 – VISA M (4X4) / MATHIOT
- #203 – VISA Lightweight / CITROËN
- #204 – VISA O (4X4) / ODINET
- #205 – VISA S / STRAKIT
- #206 – VISA K (4X4) / MOKRYCKI
- #208 – VISA D (4×4) / DANGEL
- #209 – VISA S (4X4) / STRAKIT
- #210 – VISA B (Twin-Engine) / BROZZI
- PROTOTYPE CONTEST WINNER
In 1981, Citroën Compétitions was of course quite relishing the idea of having its own Renault 5 Turbo and thus tasked famous British sports car maker Lotus to devise such a vehicle. Lotus Engineering, then headed by Colin Chapman, would create a silhouette rally car by draping a modified Visa body over a tubular chassis and engine from its iconic Esprit Turbo model.
The mid-engine “Visa Lotus” hence sported a 215 BHP (@ 6000 rpm) turbocharged engine in a custom body-shell made out of polyester. Only the Visa’s original SM gearbox was retained – all of the rest comes from Lotus and/or was custom fabricated for the needs of the project. The curb weight is said to have been 1020 kg (2,250 lbs).
On paper, this would make the Visa Lotus more than a match for the Renault 5 Turbo. Its state of finish also was quite indicative of what was expected of a company such as Lotus. However, subsequent tests allegedly proved the car to be rather unsuited to the rigours of rallying due to its brittle bodywork, unpredictable handling over rough terrain and insufficient ground clearance for gravel rallies.
The weight and high cost of the prototype are said to also having quite displeased Citroën’s Guy Verrier, hence discarding the Visa Lotus from the final contest. Two units are rumoured to have been built before the cancellation, with one remaining in Citroën’s Conservatoire (Heritage Centre).
Albeit Citroën’s rejection, the exercise was deemed as quite favourable for Lotus by giving the company much media exposure – the car having graced the front page of various automotive magazines.
QUICK SPECS; Inline-4, DOHC 16v, 2173 cc, 215 BHP, twin carburettors, Garrett T3 turbocharger, mid-engine longitudinal, rear-wheel drive, SM transmission, suspension McPherson front / trailing arm rear, four-wheel disc brakes, 1020 kg (2,250 lbs).
#201 – VISA P / POLITECNIC – DANIELSON
This 1981 rear-wheel drive Visa prototype featured a mid-mounted four-cylinder CX Reflex engine producing about 200 BHP.
The car was first tested at the Rallye des 1000 Pistes in July of 1981. Test driver Philippe Wambergue would set the fastest time on the very first stage. However the success was short-lived when he later broke a wheel hub in the rear.
QUICK SPECS; Inline-4, DOHC 16v, 1955 cc, 200 BHP, mid-engine longitudinal, rear-wheel drive, 5-speed transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, 700 kg (1,500 lbs).
#202 – VISA M (4×4) / MATHIOT
This four-wheel drive prototype was built by the Denis Mathiot Compétition (DMC – not to be confused with DeLorean) company in 1982. It originally featured a front-mounted 1580 cc engine producing around 160 BHP.
In 1983, amongst other venues, it was given a second chance to shine at the final Rallye des 1000 Pistes to determine the winning design of the contest. The revised car featured a 1457 cc engine producing about 150 BHP.
While seemingly outgunned by its rival prototypes, the Visa M’s biggest strength was its light weight despite being four-wheel drive. Philippe Wambergue would give the car its best chance at victory.
QUICK SPECS; (1983) Inline-4, 1457 cc, 150 BHP, front-engine, four-wheel drive, 5-speed transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, 700 kg (1,500 lbs).
#203 – VISA LIGHTWEIGHT 2RM / CITROËN
This front-engine and front-wheel drive prototype’s goal was aimed at reducing the weight of the Visa Trophée as much as possible and see how it would perform. The car was basically a normal competition Visa Trophée but lightened to the very maximum that composites technology and regulations allowed at the time. Note the single wiper, mirror and headlight setup as examples of this extreme diet.
QUICK SPECS; Inline-4, DOHC, 1219 cc, front-engine, front-wheel drive.
#204 – VISA O (4×4) / Odinet
This prototype was a reboot of the 1981 Polytecnic car then completely re-engineered by Michel Odinet in 1982. The mid-mounted 1955 cc CX engine was replaced in favour of a smaller 1397 cc unit paired with a supercharger for more torque in the low range. This was expressly done to favour performance of the new four-wheel drive specifications. The car was tested in the Rallye des 1000 Pistes by the team of Christian Rio / Andrée Tabet.
QUICK SPECS; Inline-4, OHC 8V, 1397 cc, 160 BHP, supercharged, front-engine, four-wheel drive, 5-speed transmission.
#205 – VISA STRAKIT
This 1981 prototype was built by Strakit Compétition: a company then specialising in off-road buggies. This special Visa featured a mid-mounted CX “Reflex” engine producing about 200 BHP sent to the rear wheels.
The most striking feature of the Strakit is without a doubt its very wide rear fender flares – quite reminiscent of the StratoPolonez prototype of 1978. This would however incur severe handling problems over rough and uneven terrain, such as the ones that plagued the Visa Lotus.
QUICK SPECS; Inline-4, DOHC 16v, 1955 cc, 200 BHP, mid-engine longitudinal, rear-wheel drive, 5-speed transmission, four-wheel disc brakes.
#206 – VISA K (4×4) / MOKRYCKI
This 1983 prototype was built by Michel Mokrycki alongside different variations of the BX 4×4 prototypes also in development at the time. It featured a 210 BHP mid-mounted (transverse) engine taken from the Talbot Tagora model. Power was sent through all four wheels.
This special Visa was enhanced with a rather well designed aerodynamic widebody kit to improve the car’s handling. The car also quite astonishingly sported Citroën’s hydropneumatic suspension.
The Mokrycki prototype was driven by Christian Rio at the third and final Rallye des 1000 Pistes to determine the winning design of the contest.
QUICK SPECS; Inline-4, OHC 8v, 2155 cc, 210 BHP, mid-engine transverse, four-wheel drive, hydropneumatic suspension, disc brakes, 900 kg (1985 lbs).
#208 – VISA D / DANGEL
Henry Dangel was a race car fabricator as far back as the 1960’s, later becoming a 4×4 specialist with major contracts such as for modifying Peugeot’s 504 pickups to four-wheel drive specification. His company was therefore asked by Citroën Compétitions to produce a 4WD prototype of the Visa.
The original prototype featured the Dangel company’s famed orange racing colour scheme, albeit this was later changed to Citroën Competition’s white, red and blue livery at the demand of Guy Verrier.
The Visa D featured a mid-mounted PRV V6 175 BHP engine straight from the PSA parts bin paired a unique four-wheel drive system of Dangel’s design. One can remember the PRV V6 being also used in the ill-fated DeLorean DMC-12. However, for reasons unknown, the Visa D was not invited to participate in the final contest.
QUICK SPECS; 90 degree V6, SOHC, 2849 cc, 175 BHP, normally aspirated, carburettor, mid-engine longitudinal, four-wheel drive.
#209 – VISA S (4×4) / STRAKIT
Strakit rebooted their previous prototype for 1983. The car would retain its mid-mounted longitudinal engine layout. However, the car now made use of the larger displacement 2.5 litre CX Reflex tuned to about 220 BHP. More importantly, the Visa Strakit was modified to four-wheel drive specification as required by Guy Verrier.
The car’s first and quite ludicrous rear fender flares were modified and improved – in the lines of the more mature R5 Turbo. The ill-footed handling of the previous design was made more stable via McPherson struts and anti-roll bars. The Strakit 4×4 was driven by Pierre Pagani at the final Rallye des 1000 Pistes to determine the winner of the contest.
QUICK SPECS; Inline-4, OHC, 2498 cc, 220 BHP, mid-engine longitudinal, four-wheel drive, 5-speed transmission, McPherson suspension, vented disc brakes, 935 kg (2060 lb).
#210 – VISA B Twin Engine / Brozzi
This 1983 Visa prototype was built by Laurent Brozzi. It is best known for featuring twin transversely-mounted 1219 cc engines (one front, one mid) producing a total of 180 BHP. The car was draped in polyester body panels and weighing about 900 kg (1985 lb) despite the heft of two engines and two transaxles.
The Visa B was entered at the 1983 Rallye des 1000 Pistes albeit it had very little chance of being chosen since twin-engine designs are often accompanied by weird handling characteristics paired with twice the chance of something breaking down.
However, Citroën Compétitions were interested in how a car turned four-wheel drive by the use of twin engines would perform. It must be noted that other manufacturers, such as Volkswagen, were also toying with the same idea at the time. The Visa B was thus driven in the final contest event by Paris-Dakar specialist Marc Lacaze.
QUICK SPECS; Inline-4, OHC 8v, 1219 cc x2, 180 BHP (total), twin-engine, Weber 45 DCOE carburettors, four-wheel drive (2+2), 5-speed transaxles, McPherson suspension, vented disc brakes, 900 kg (1985 lb).
PROTOTYPE CONTEST WINNER
In 1983, Citroën’s Guy Verrier would send the last four contenders amongst the four-wheel drive Visa prototypes to the Rallye des 1000 Pistes. The victorious design ultimately became the revised #202 Visa M (4×4), which was expertly driven by Philippe Wambergue to win the event in its class – even beating a prototype Peugeot 205 Turbo 16. While the Visa M was arguably the most unassuming of the prototypes at first glance, this proves that appearances can be deceiving in rallying.
The car was officially renamed the “Visa 1000 Pistes” in honour of the achievement and subsequently went on to be officially produced and homologated for competition. The contract to build the twenty Visa works cars going to well-deserved winner, Denis Mathiot Compétition.
The definitive Visa 1000 Pistes rally car was then further developed at Citroën Competitions alongside the winner of a similar engineering contest involving the BX model built by Mokrycki – the infamous BX 4TC. The latter was aimed at the overall win in the WRC rather than class and national honours.
(C) Article by Jay Auger – website owner & author
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- Visa Chrono Club de France (pictures)