Kris Meeke out in cold after Citroen axe
Published 16/10/2013 | 04:30
Kris Meeke is disappointed but philosophical. Left out of the Citroen team for his home round of the World championship, Wales Rally GB next month, he says: "You can't expect to be rewarded if you don't do the job you were asked to do no matter how hard you tried."
The former IRC champion from Dungannon had been told he would drive alongside Citroen No.1 Mikko Hirvonen in the British round if he finished in the top five in Australia.
But despite an encouraging start in which he was fastest in qualifying and ran as high as third – ahead of Hirvonen – he crashed out.
It followed on from a similar incident on his Citroen debut in Finland where he crashed out of fifth place within sight of the finish.
In the aftermath of the Australian accident an unhappy Citroen team Yves Matton boss said he would not make a quick decision – "if I do it would not be good for Kris," he said.
But now he has made his decision and Meeke is out to be replaced, surprisingly, by ex-F1 driver Robert Kubica.
The former Canadian Grand Prix winner's F1 career was ended by a rally accident in which his right hand was almost severed in Italy almost three years ago.
He has since turned to rallying full-time and is on the verge of winning the WRC2 division of the World championship in a specially adapted RRC Citroen, a performance which has him on the radar of a number of teams.
Meeke, who is currently in France doing test and development work for both Citroen and sister company Peugeot, refuses to be too downbeat.
"Of course I'm disappointed. I would love to have the chance to drive in front of the British fans in Wales," he said.
"But I didn't do the specific job I was asked to do in Finland and especially Australia and can't expect to be rewarded for failing to deliver. But it wasn't all bad.
"Despite having been away from the World championship for more than 18 months I was able to step straight into a WRC car and set competitive times. Yes, I made mistakes, which I bitterly regret, but there were a lot of positives to take away from those two rallies.
"Citroen have acknowledged this but have decided to give Robert the opportunity to step up as a reward for his WRC2 performances this year. He's a great driver and a nice man and I wish him all the best."
Meeke admits he has no idea what the future now holds.
"There is a lot going on at the moment in the driver market with all the Citroen places up for grabs, Hyundai coming into the championship and possible changes at Ford," he said.
"I don't know where, or even if, I figure in any of it but I think I've shown I have the speed to be in the championship.
"I don't think people realise how difficult it is to compete at this level one a one-off basis. It takes at least a year to two years to learn the rallies and get to grips with the cars. Look at Thierry Neuville. Last season he was very average and Citroen let him go. A year on and Citroen, Ford and Hyundai are all fighting over him."