Kris Meeke out to show his class
Kris Meeke returns to the World rally championship determined to serve up a reminder that he "hasn't gone away".
The Ulsterman will drive a Super 1600 Renault Clio run by Renault Sport's Italian satellite team, Munaretto, on Rally Deutschland starting tomorrow and although he will be unable to score points in the Junior World championship where he was once the pacemaker for Citroen, Meeke's aim will be to measure himself against the new breed, some of whom are being described as the "next big thing" in world rallying.
One of them is Sebastien Ogier, the 25-year-old Frenchman who leads the JWRC series and is being talked of as "Sebastien Loeb Mark 2".
Effectively he replaced Meeke in the Citroen junior team and appears to be on course to emulate Loeb by becoming JWRC champion in his first season.
Ironically Ogier is heading our way after Germany. He has been drafted in to drive a "customer specification" Citroen C2R2 Max on the Ulster Rally - an event Meeke won outright 12 months ago.
Now Meeke is relishing the opportunity to go up against him in similar S1600 cars.
"There are a few guys around in the JWRC at the moment, especially Ogier, Aaron Burkart and Martin Prokop who are being tipped as the next big things, so it will be good to see how my times compare against them," he said before setting out for Germany.
"But I won't have the pressure of having to think about championship points which is always great on an event. My plan is to go and drive at my level and take it from there.
"I've had a first and second place in the JWRC in Germany so I have fond memories of the event."
Meeke's surprise return to the World championship came after he drove an R3 Clio for Renault Sport on Rally Russia last month.
"The discussions started in Russia," said Meeke. "Munaretto and myself were all keen to go to Germany with a Super 1600 Clio so a deal came together for me to go if I could find the cash.
It’s been the usual rush to put the budget together, and I can't thank the sponsors enough for giving me this chance to return to the WRC."
Apart from Ogier, Meeke will also line up against Donegal's Shaun Gallagher, who currently lies third in the JWRC in a C2 Citroen, as well as Cork's Brian O'Mahony, making his German debut in his Clio.