The uprated Citroën Xsaras of Colin McRae, Sébastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz are expected to mount a stiff challenge to the Peugeot 206’s dominance of the Rally of New Zealand.

The uprated Citroën Xsaras of Colin McRae, Sébastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz are expected to mount a stiff challenge to the Peugeot 206’s dominance of the Rally of New Zealand.

Since the completion of the Rally of Turkey, Citroën Sport has taken up the option offered by the WRC regulations to homologate new parts for the Xsara from April 1. On the engine front, these modifications include of a new crankshaft, exhaust manifold, turbo housing and intercooler. The rear wing has also been modified with the addition of five upright blades on its upper side.

With pre-event testing now prohibited on-site for rallies taking place outside of Europe, Citroën prepared for the forthcoming encounter on a test stage in Catalonia.

“We did our pre-event testing near Manresa, in a region where the roads are as close a match as possible to the stages we will find in New Zealand terrain as described to us by Colin and Carlos. All three drivers were satisfied after the session, but we can’t guarantee the set-up we found will be the effective. If it's not, the key will be our capacity to react swiftly," team boss Guy Fréquelin said.

The running order in the stages was also expected to be of vital importance because of the top layer of loose gravel that the first cars have to brush aside.

If the going is dry, Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz, who start Leg One second and third on the road respectively, will be at a disadvantage. Rain would change everything, however, since it would make the going slippery for everyone, and not just for the so-called 'road sweepers', a Citroën team spokesman said.