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Meeke welcomes Mikkelsen arrival despite extra pressure

 

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke has welcomed the inclusion of Andreas Mikkelsen in the Citroen team for this week's Rally Italia, but the arrival of the Norwegian is seen by some as a double-edged sword.

Mikkelsen, who spent his teenage years competing in the Irish Tarmac Championship, is one of the few drivers with experience of more than one of this year's new brand of WRC cars having tested both the mothballed Volkswagen and the current Hyundai.

And as Citroen seek to tame their fast but wayward C3, they hope he may be able to help them iron out the car's apparent suspension shortcomings which have sapped the confidence of Meeke and team-mates Craig Breen and Stephane Lefebvre.

Young French driver Lefebvre, who has crashed on all his C3 appearances, stands down this weekend in Sardinia to make way for Mikkelsen, and Meeke says he is happy to have the former European champion on board.

"I think it's a good thing to have Andreas in the team," said the Dungannon driver, who won in Mexico but has been off the road in virtually every other round. "He brings valuable experience and he has the potential to win rallies." 

But if Mikkelsen shows he can master the C3 despite having had just one day to get to grips with the car - a car Meeke and the Citroen engineers spent all of last year developing - it could raise questions over the Ulsterman's role within the team.

Citroen Racing boss Yves Matton has insisted Meeke's position is not under threat, but he also said initially that Mikkelsen's recruitment was just for Rally Italia.

He has since indicated this may not be case. He said: "When we asked Andreas to join us, the intention was not for him to have one shot and then we say goodbye.

"Andreas has nothing to prove. We will not put him under any pressure (in Sardinia). We just want him to find his level and drive at it."

The pressure is on Meeke to stay on the road and deliver points.

Belfast Telegraph

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