Meeke picks the devil he knows
And there we go, one of the last remaining pieces of the WRC 2016 puzzle found its place on the big board; Kris Meeke will remain with Citroën Racing for the next three years. Now, we should probably go through this bit by bit, because this information contains many layers of good. It never made much sense to expect them to give Meeke another year or two (seeing how they’ll basically be away next year), but it wasn’t totally out of the question; Citroën could have given him a year of development and then 2017 to either make it or break it. Instead, he got three years – I won’t even look in his stats sheet, I am quite certain this is the longest deal Kris ever had with a team in his bumpy WRC career. This is Meeke’s chance to build a car to his liking and test the hell out of it. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for him to part ways with his demons and re-calibrate his instruments. Nobody ever doubted Meeke’s speed, but everything else about him, or rather his driving, was not as shiny. Unless his only goal is to emulate his mentor’s Colin McRae’s many crashes, retirements and expensive mistakes. There will not be another chance like this for Kris. Let’s see how he handles this new situation – last time he worked on a brand new car was during Mini’s ridiculous “WRC programme” – I’m sure he’ll be googling “how do you cope with the pressure of solid, multi-year contract, because I never had that, eva?”.
Sure, there was also the option for him to switch to Toyota, but I am sure that programme is a bit too big of a risk for Kris. It’s a team shrouded in mystery (and probably snow at the moment) and I’d like to think Meeke decided to stick with the devil he knows, the team he is familiar with and does not need to start from the 0 once again. Granted, things weren’t as simple as that, but I’m a simple person so I like to dumb stuff down sometimes.
Meeke’s contract renewal is also good news for the sport, because it spells some nice numbers to us. It says Citroën is set to compete for at least two more years after the launch of the new car. Now, I know they’ve been saying that in their recent WRC comeback announcement, but I like as many evidence as I can get. Meeke will get 1 year to build a car, 1 year to learn it and then 1 year to win the hell out of everything he can. I like the sound of that, I also like the idea of Citroën returning to rallying in full force. We know what they’re capable of and I’m sure they’ll be up there again, Loeb or no Loeb.
We’ll miss them at the start of the 2016, no doubt. But I’d rather take a year without them, knowing they’re licking their wounds and building up their muscles, than see them play a support role to other teams for another year or two, then fade into oblivion. That’s not the Citroën Racing way.
Officially official… thing follows below.
CITROËN RACING AND KRIS MEEKE SET FOR NEW CHALLENGES TOGETHER!
A month after it announced the launch of a new WRC programme to begin in 2017, Citroën Racing has confirmed that it will be continuing to work together with Kris Meeke for the next three years. In 2016, the British driver’s main task will be to work on development of the new World Rally Car designed by Citroën Racing.
Having joined the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team at the end of the 2013 season, Kris Meeke has established himself as one of the few drivers genuinely capable of troubling the dominant leaders of the World Rally Championship. Despite his relative inexperience – having only contested 34 WRC rallies by the end of this year – the Northern Irishman claimed his first win just a few month ago after a perfectly controlled performance at Rally Argentina.
Constantly progressing and still with plenty of room for improvement, Kris Meeke represents the first part of the plan put together by Citroën Racing for its return to top-level competition in 2017. After signing a contract that runs until the end of 2018, Kris Meeke and his co-driver Paul Nagle will be able to continue to flourish whilst taking on some ambitious new challenges.
“Various options were available to me to pursue my career, but I chose to stay with Citroën Racing to reap the rewards of the work done over the last two years or more,” commented Kris Meeke. “It’s also a way of thanking the team for the faith they have shown in me. We now know each other very well and this understanding will be essential in developing the new car successfully. I’m very excited about everything that lies ahead in the next few months. I began my career in motorsport as a design engineer so although I can’t wait to get into the car, I’ll be following every stage of the design and assembly of the first car with great interest. I’m also very excited about the new FIA regulations, which look set to deliver more powerful and more spectacular cars! Obviously, all of this work is geared towards me being able to fight for more wins and for the world title. Citroën Racing is team with a winning mentality, with fifteen world titles, eight of which were won in the WRC. I am extremely pleased to be part of this new chapter in the history of such a prestigious Brand.”
“In terms of our new programme, above all else we wanted an experienced, top-level driver, with sound technical knowledge,” added Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “Kris was undoubtedly the best choice and we are delighted that he has decided to stay with us. We have a lot of shared history, with two seasons in the JWRC in the 2000s and then the last couple of years with the DS 3 WRC. However, the most important part of his career is ahead of him, with three seasons to develop and achieve success in the successor to the Xsara, C4 and DS 3 WRC! In 2016, the test programme will be the priority for Kris from April, when initial testing of the new car is set to begin. He will nonetheless keep his hand in as regards racing by taking part in several rounds of the World Championship. Initial details of this private programme will be revealed shortly.”