Citroen motorsport boss Yves Matton has given the clearest indication yet that Kris Meeke will be part of their World Rally Championship team next season.
Outlining plans for what is being dubbed a ‘super team’, he also confirmed that they are continuing to try to woo back World champion Sebastien Ogier and that Sebastien Loeb, their legendary nine-time champion, could play a limited part in 2018.
Some see it as a pie in the sky attempt to re-establish Citroen as a major WRC force again after a disastrous year with their new C4. They are bottom of the manufacturers’ championship with Meeke’s victory in Mexico and a second place by guest driver Andreas Mikkelsen in Germany their only podium places.
Under huge pressure to fix their problems, Matton revealed they are in negotiations with Ogier in an effort to tempt him away from the M-Sport Ford team with which he is on course to win a fifth World title.
He left Citroen six years ago after falling out with Loeb, but now Matton wants to re-unite them in a team which will also include Ulsterman Meeke, Craig Breen and Stephane Lefebvre.
“It’s not the same story as in 2011, if Ogier joins us he comes to win the Championship, but if Loeb comes it’s only for some rallies,” said Matton. “It was his decision to retire from the World Championship, so it has to be his decision to come back.”
Despite relationships with Meeke being strained after he was left out of the team for Rally Poland following a series of crashes, Matton reiterated that the Ulsterman has a contract for next season and would be driving in all rounds of the 2018 series. Breen and Lefebvre are also staying, although Matton admitted they don’t have a specific number of rallies agreed for next year.
On pairing Meeke with Ogier, Matton said: “I don’t know how they get on and, in one way, it doesn’t matter; when they are on the starting line, one does not care about the other one. It’s when they are having breakfast and things like this that these things matter.”
Coincidentally, Meeke and Ogier are among a star-studded line-up taking part in the RallyLegend Experience in San Marino, which this year will be a tribute event to former World champion Colin McRae.
McRae, who died in a helicopter accident 10 years ago, was Meeke’s early mentor and he will take part in the October 19-22 event in a Citroen Xsara WRC along with 30 of the top drivers in the world.
Meanwhile, the weekend proved to be a special one for the Cronin family.
Not only did Keith Cronin win the British Rally Championship for a fourth time with victory on the Isle of Man but his brother Daniel, also driving an R5 Ford Fiesta, recorded his first outright national rally win in the Clare Stages.
The final round of the Northern Ireland Hillclimb Championship at Knockagh on Saturday was called off after a combination of rain and oil on the road made conditions too dangerous.