Kris Meeke has been shortlisted by Citroen for a surprise return to the World Rally Championship later this year.
Citroen team boss Yves Matton's has confirmed the former Intercontinental Challenge champion from Dungannon is under consideration to replace Khalid Al-Qassimi alongside Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo for Rally Finland in August — and possibly other WRC rounds.
Al-Qassimi, who is closely linked to team sponsors Abu Dhabi, cannot compete because the Finnish event clashes with his Middle East championship commitments and now Matton has revealed he is likely to chose between Meeke and former Subaru driver Chris Atkinson as the World champions struggle without their talisman Sebastien Loeb.
The Australian stood in for Al-Qassimi in Mexico earlier this month, finishing sixth.
“I made a list with some different profiles and Kris Meeke and Chris Atkinson are there with approximately the same profile,” said Matton. “The main difference for Mexico was that Chris was there last year and he also drove the DS3 in Finland last year — those were two important facts that made me chose for him to be in Mexico.
“But on the speed, contact with the team and a lot of other things they are similar. Both drivers are on the list for Finland.”
Matton, who worked with Meeke when the Ulsterman came close to winning the Junior WRC title for Citroen in 2004 and 2005, said a decision will be made after Rally Portugal next month.
“I have known Kris for a long time,” he said, “and the reason he is on the list is because of his experience with four-wheel drive cars and the speed I know he has. And because he is working with us testing some cars.”
Meeke has been sidelined since the collapse of the Mini WRC team 16 months ago but has been closely involved with the sister French companies, Citroen and Peugeot. He tested the current Citroen DS3 in Italy late last year and more recently worked on the development of the new R5 Peugeot 208.
“Yves knows I would go to the end of the earth to get into his car in Finland,” said Meeke. “After I tested it a few months ago, I sent him a text telling him I'd sell my granny to get a rally in that car!
“I know the DS3 is simply awesome and would absolutely relish the chance to get in that car in Finland but I can only wait and hope.”