Belfast Telegraph

Chris Meeke targeting second spot with eye on the future ahead of Rally Spain

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke says he will focus on playing the team game on this weekend's Rally Spain as Citroen seek to consolidate their second place in the all-important manufacturers' championship.

The Rally Argentina winner from Dungannon knows it is crucial to finish runner-up to Volkswagen, not just for his own future - and that of team-mate Mads Ostberg - but perhaps for his Citroen team, too. They are committed to one more year in the World championship but there are no guarantees after that.

To be beaten by VW is one thing, but to fall behind comparative newcomers Hyundai as well might be the signal for Citroen to cut and run, sacrificing rallying for racing where they are World Touring Car champions.

Meeke has already said he wants to stay at Citroen but is looking at other options and is reported to have recently visited the Frankfurt base of rivals Hyundai.

However, that door seems to have closed with the Korean team confirming this week their three drivers, Thierry Neuville, Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo, will continue next season.

Bizarrely, that could be good news for Meeke. Neuville and Paddon were said to be two names on Citroen's potential list for 2016 although most observers believe the fast but inconsistent Ulsterman was a better option.

He has another opportunity to make the point this weekend on a rally where a puncture robbed him of a potential podium position last year. He is happy with the unusual mix of gravel on day one followed by two days of tarmac and says the top three is "a realistic target".

But he adds: "The real goal is to consolidate our second place in the manufacturers' standings and that will be my priority."

The Salou-based event has attracted a strong Irish contingent which includes young Kesh driver Jon Armstrong making his WRC debut in his R2 Peugeot after just missing out on the Carryduff Forklift Road to Wales prize.

Craig Breen, who saw his European championship hopes wrecked by the storm which curtailed the Acropolis Rally, is the line-up, too, in his R5 Peugeot and also making the trip are Robert Woodside in a Mitsubishi Evo, Pauric Duffy (R5 Fiesta), and Enda McCormack (S2000 Skoda).

Belfast Telegraph


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