Rival boss rallies behind slated Chris Meeke ahead of German rally
Under fire from his Citroen bosses after a series of accidents, Kris Meeke has found an unlikely ally ahead of this weekend's Rally Deutschland.
Jost Capito, team principal of World champions Volkswagen, has said he would sign the Dungannon driver if he could.
"If we had a fourth car it would have Kris' name on it," said Capito.
Meeke won for the first time in Argentina earlier this year but has crashed on each of the last three rounds and Citroen motorsport director Yves Matton has warned him and team-mate Mads Ostberg they have precious little time left to prove they should be part of the team in 2016.
A frustrated Matton went so far as to say Meeke had "completely destroyed" the value of his victory in Argentina with his crashes in Italy, Poland and Finland.
But Capito says he sees Meeke as a potential World champion and has described him as the biggest threat to his VW team.
"He is a good friend and I know he could be the World champion - I'm absolutely convinced," the German said.
"Kris is the guy who can challenge this (VW) team on the stages and he is also the guy challenging Seb (Ogier, the current World champion).
"We need guys like Kris, they are vital for the championship. If we had a fourth car, then I would want his name on it."
But Capito already has three drivers under contract for next season. He also said he was surprised at the public nature of Citroen's criticism of Meeke.
"What is discussed in public... you don't see these kind of things from VW," he said.
"I don't want to comment on what they say, it's not my business, but if you are in a job and you are questioned all of the time, you cannot deliver your best."
After Meeke crashed in Sardinia and then again during the shakedown in Poland, Matton said: "This cannot happen. I am not ready for any excuse when you go off on the first stage in Sardinia and the shakedown in Poland.
"There is nothing that I can accept as an excuse.
"This puts him in a position that he needs to have more results in the second half of the season if he wants a seat in a Citroen next season. It is up to Kris to do the job."
But in Finland earlier this month, when Meeke was again the only driver matching the pace of the VWs of Ogier and eventual winner Jari-Matti Latvala, his Citroen aquaplaned into a tree, breaking the suspension.
Tonight, he starts the German round under increased pressure. It was the vineyards of the Mosel Valley last year that he led a WRC round for the first time only to crash within sight of victory.
He simply can't afford to do that again.