Total and Citroen: 50 years of victories in the most difficult races
The very first rally-raid Paris-Dakar started on the eve of 1978 and was a little like the present Dakars. There were no famous surnames, no generous sponsors, no factory teams, no clear rules – all spoke in a single ensemble, without dividing the motorcycle, car and cargo counts. There was, of course, no experience of holding such a large-scale competition. Because of the logistical overlays, when the judges and marshals did not have time to get to the finish of the intermediate stage, the raid continually turned into a quest. Faced with these punctures, the organizers of the raid appealed to the chevrons to prepare trouble-free transportation. And based on the experience of their own marathons plus victories in African rallies, the special stages of which often coincided with the Dakar route, Citroen and Total prepared eight Mehari off-road cars for marshals, the press, doctors and communications men for the race in 1980.
Citroen Total 50 In motor racing, no one is immune from mistakes, no one is guaranteed a victory even a mile away from the finish. Having made a bet on speed in 1981, and not on four-wheel drive, the chevrons lost their first Paris-Dakar. But that is what distinguishes the great champions that they know how to benefit even from defeats. And they will win their next raid “with a reserve”.
A year later, after examining the raid “from the inside” (some of the drivers were Citroen engineers) and taking into account the operating experience of Mehari, the factory team put on start five brand crews on the CX 2400. For Total, this race was doubly interesting for its unique conditions. In addition to the most severe temperature regimes (the first stages took place against the background of the snow-covered Atlas Mountains, and in the Sahara, the air heated up to 40 degrees) the motors “breathed” with Fesch – a sandy-dust slurry of smaller powder. So small that when windless it didn’t settle for hours and so small that it penetrated literally everywhere – not one of the most perfect filters could catch this powder, and it penetrated both motors and gearboxes.
Alas, only one crew reached the finish line then – it became obvious that there was nothing to do there without all-wheel drive technology specially built for Dakar.
Citroen Total 50In 1991, over the territory of 10 countries, including the Soviet Union, had to go supermarathon – Paris-Beijing. Moreover, part of the route ran through the Ukrainian SSR. But because of the Emergency Committee and the new borders had to postpone the start and cut the route. A year later, Pierre Lartigues was the first to reach the Great Wall of China on the ZX Rallye Raid. He brought the team three victories in the “Dakar”.
This model – ZX Rallye Raid – appeared in the team only 10 years later. But she won her first marathon, which was an excellent start for the global rebranding campaign for Total’s product line and its gas station network. This was followed by victories in the Egyptian raid of Rallye des Pharaons, the Moroccan Rallye de l’Atlas, the transcontinental Paris-Beijing, and talks about holding a world championship. After all, by that time, with an eye on the “Dakar” around the world, it had already been carried out with a dozen off-road races – from 2-day “bang” to 3-week-old super-marathon. And 1993 was a landmark year in the world of rally raids – the International Automobile Federation announced the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. And up to his retirement from the discipline at the end of 1996, the Chevrons won the World Cup exclusively. And left undefeated, winning a total of 36 raids on the ZX Rallye Raid.