Kris Meeke puts UK on map
It is more than a decade since two Britons had front-running roles in the Monte Carlo Rally, the iconic opening round of the World championship.
Not since the days of Colin McRae and Richard Burns, both now sadly and prematurely dead, have the names of a pair of home-grown drivers appeared in the top 10 of the starting list for the world's most famous rally.
This week Ulster's Kris Meeke leads the Citroen team at No.3 and young Welshman Elfyn Evans, making his debut for the M-Sport Ford team, follows closely behind at No.6 in a line-up which is headed by new World champion Sebastien Ogier.
It was in 2003 that McRae and Burns last lined up together in Monte Carlo and since their demise – Burns from a brain tumour and McRae in a helicopter crash – no Brit has figured in the top manufacturer teams and, therefore, not considered serious contenders.
The arrival of two new manufacturers – Volkswagen last year and now Hyundai – has broadened the driver base and provided the opportunity for Meeke and Evans to join the rally elite.
Both have been signed up to full WRC programmes, Meeke being handed the formidable task of replacing the most successful driver of all time, Sebastien Loeb, as Citroen No.1, while Evans, the son of former British champion and Ulster Rally winner Gwyndaf Evans, has the role of Mikko Hirvonen's No.2 at Ford.