Belfast Telegraph

Pressure builds, but Kris Meeke's ready to take on world

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke was flanked by two of the most prolific winners in world motorsport as he was officially unveiled as Citroen's lead driver in next year's World rally championship.

Meeke was on stage at Citroen's headquarters at Versailles, on the outskirts of Paris, as the French manufacturer presented its motorsport plans for 2014, including the launch of their World Touring Car Championship programme which will be headed by nine-times World rally champion Sebastien Loeb and Yvan Muller, a four-time WTCC champion.

With Loeb calling time on his record-breaking rally career, Meeke has been handed the daunting task of leading a new look Abu Dhabi Citroen team which will include Norwegian Mads Ostberg and Emirati Khalid Al Qassimi.

And with Meeke's 2009 Intercontinental Challenge championship-winning co-driver Paul Nagle re-joining him, it was announced that Ulsterman Chris Patterson, who has partnered the Dungannon driver on recent events in Finland and Australia, will team up with Qassimi on selected WRC rounds as well as contesting the Middle East championship.

Meeke said he was "comfortable" with the challenge of stepping up to his new role.

"Citroen Racing has rewritten the record books in WRC over the past 10 years with Sebastien Loeb," he said.

"To be a part of that now is fantastic; I know I can count on the vast experience they have. There's a huge depth of knowledge there and hopefully that'll shorten my learning curve.

"The team understand where I am – I've only ever driven in 10 WRC rounds in a World Rally Car – but they understand my potential too, otherwise I wouldn't have been given the chance.

"There is pressure, but it's different than what you'd find on a one-off event appearance. The whole thing feels right; I'm comfortable with the challenge ahead."

Outlining their twin World championship ambitions, Citroen's motorsport principal Yves Matton explained: "We are very fortunate to be able to take on this double programme despite the difficult economic conditions facing the automotive industry.

"We are going to reach more countries, in all four corners of the planet and we are going to have so many more opportunities to promote Citroën and showcase its Créative Technologie."

Matton confirmed a third WTCC car would be driven by Argentinian Jose-Maria Lopez and a Chinese driver would also be added to the team.

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