Kris Meeke delighted at Citroen giving him World chance
Kris Meeke called it "an incredible opportunity" as he was named in the Citroen team for a full World rally championship campaign in 2014.
In a surprise move the French team, World champions nine times in the past decade, revealed Meeke would head up their team alongside Norwegian Mads Ostberg with Khalid Al Qassimi joining them for selected rounds of the WRC series.
The Ulsterman, who has been the principal test driver for Citroen and sister company Peugeot for the past year, made two stand-in appearances for the team in Finland and Australia but was thought to have blown his chances of a full-time place when he crashed out of both rallies.
However, Citroen clearly saw potential in his performances and, after a disappointing season in which Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo delivered just one win and they were deposed as World champions by Volkswagen and Sebastien Ogier, they have gone for a complete shake-up.
Hirvonen and Sordo have been shown the door and Citroen are gambling on the relatively untried partnership of Meeke and Ostberg, who joins from the M-Sport Ford team.
Meeke, who won the 2009 Intercontinental Challenge champion for Peugeot, has already flown to the south of France to begin preparations for the Monte Carlo Rally in January. Last night, he said: "It is an incredible opportunity for me, one that I have been dreaming about for a very long time.
"I've always been close to Citroen and I'm really lucky to have been able to work with a team that has so much experience and won so many titles.
"But this is a big step up. I have only competed in 10 world championship rallies in a WRC car so although I believe I've got potential, I still need to get more experience under my belt.
"The Citroen DS3 WRC is a terrific car and I'm going to be able to use the team's knowledge to help me improve. But I will have to be patient in the first half of the season and learn all about the rallies that I haven't done before."
Ostberg has contested 65 WRC events, winning for the first time in Portugal last year. Al Qassimi will drive in Sweden, Portugal, Italy and Spain.
Citroen team principal Yves Matton said both Meeke and Ostberg were on the verge of breaking into the elite.
"Kris Meeke and Mads Ostberg have followed very different career paths, but both of them are on the cusp of making it into the very top class of world rally drivers."