Kris Meeke set for special debut
Kris Meeke will have the 'honour' of introducing Peugeot's latest rally car in Belgium this weekend.
The Peugeot 208 T16 is one of the new generation of R5 category cars being developed for the future and the French manufacturer has chosen Meeke and the European championship Ypres Rally to give it its world debut.
The former IRC champion from Dungannon, who is joined by co-driver Chris Patterson, a fellow Ulsterman, won't officially be competing on the two-day event but finds himself involved in a 'future face-off' as Ford have also selected Ypres to showcase their new R5 Fiesta which will be driven by Belgian Thierry Neuville.
The T16 and the Fiesta are not eligible for FIA events yet but both will run at the head of Ypres field as 'zero' cars, leading to intense interest in their comparative performances.
Meeke is the senior test driver for both Peugeot and Citroen's new R5 cars and along with Craig Breen, who competes in Belgium as part of the Peugeot Sport Academy team in the current S2000 207 version, has been involved in extensive behind-the-scenes development work on the T16 project.
"It's good that we are ready to take part in a rally, because after the test sessions, this will enable us to face competitive conditions and therefore gauge where we are in terms of our development programme," he explained.
"This is a great rally and an ideal place for the new car to make its first appearance and, for Chris and myself, it is an honour to be the crew tasked with driving it on its world debut."
Meeke, a former Ypres winner, will also be on hand to provide assistance for Breen who is tackling the event for the first time.
The World S2000 champion from Waterford lies second in the ERC series behind Skoda's Jan Kopecky and is seeking his first win after three second places. However, with Kopecky sitting this one out, Breen is all too aware of the need to score points at all costs.
"Whenever anyone talks to me about Ypres, they immediately mention Kris winning here on his first appearance," said Breen.
"Winning is also my aim, but I have to be sensible. Even without Kopecky, there are some local specialists taking part, like seven-times winner Freddy Loix, as well as most of the usual suspects from the ERC, starting with Bryan Bouffier and François Delecour, so it will be difficult.
"It would be great to win but the championship is the priority."