Champion Sebastien Ogier earns Meeke's respect for his switch to Ford
Kris Meeke has hailed Sebastien Ogier's decision to join the M-Sport Ford team, pointing out that, as a four-time World champion, he could have walked away from rallying with his ambitions achieved following Volkswagen's sudden withdrawal.
But Ogier is staying and will drive for Malcolm Wilson's Cumbria-based Ford team, starting with the Monte Carlo Rally in January. The announcement came at the same time it was revealed that another VW exile, Jari-Matti Latvala, has signed for the new all-Finnish Toyota team alongside two recent Circuit of Ireland winners, Juho Hanninen and Esapekka Lappi.
The spotlight, however, was always on Ogier and what he would decide to do. All options were open to him including Ford, Toyota, a private VW team and even joining Meeke and Craig Breen at Citroen. Or, with a €6m pay-off from VW, retirement.
The French ace has chosen Ford, a decision welcomed by Meeke, who is expected to be one of Ogier's biggest rivals for the World title in 2017.
"He could easily have done a Nico," said Meeke, referring to Nico Rosberg's decision to quit after winning the F1 World Championship. "But the WRC is just a bit different! Respect," he tweeted from Andorra.
Ogier will now team up with Estonian Ott Tanak and another Frenchman, Eric Camilli, in the stunning new 2017 Ford Fiesta WRC, which was only unveiled on Friday. Ulster Rally winner Elfyn Evans is expected to join the DMACK Ford team.
Ogier said: "There will be a lot of new things this season, but I am definitely looking forward to it. We have a new generation of World Rally cars, and a new team - it's an exciting time.
"There's not long before we line-up at the start of Rally Monte Carlo and we've not had a lot of seat time with the Ford Fiesta WRC, but we'll give it our best to be ready.
"We're aware of the challenges, but I can see how hungry Malcolm and his team are for success.
"Our aim is to return Ford to the top step of the podium."