Belfast Telegraph

Citroen turn up heat with deadline for Meeke's future

By Sammy Hamill

In the wake of Citroen opting to pull out of next year's World Rally Championship, Kris Meeke said he had "decisions to make" about his future. Now it seems he has reached crunch point.

The Rally Argentina winner is reported to have been offered a three-year deal to lead the test and development programme of the new Toyota Yaris WRC next year before spearheading the Japanese manufacturer's return to the WRC in 2017.

But Citroen are reluctant to let him go and he had talks with the team last weekend. They are planning to take a gap year before returning to the WRC in 2017 with a new car and they want Meeke to head up the test programme as he has done for them so often in the past.

Citroen also hinted at the possibility of the Dungannon driver competing in some WRC rounds with one of their satellite teams, most likely starting in Portugal in April.

But team boss Yves Matton has ramped up the pressure by suddenly announcing he needs a decision by next Friday, December 18. "That's the date for entries to close for Monte Carlo," he said.

Citroen, who revealed their opt-out decision shortly after Meeke had secured their runners-up position in this year's manufacturers' championship by finishing second at Wales Rally GB last month, had given no indication they intended to take part in the Monte Carlo Rally in January.

But clearly they now plan to be represented on the flagship French event although not as an official manufacturer entry. Even so, it makes Meeke's decision to stay or go all the more difficult as he loves the unique challenge of the Alpine stages and it could indicate that Citroen may be involved in more than the four or five rallies they originally suggested.

However, the main sticking point still seems to be his insistence on more than a one-year contract. At 36 he believes he has three more years at the top level and, importantly, he doesn't want to be involved in the development of the new car and then not be included when it breaks cover in the 2017 championship.

Well aware of Toyota's interest, Matton added: "We are still talking to Kris, but I prefer to make my negotiations directly with him rather than in the media.

"One thing I will say is that Kris knows about the timeframe he has as a driver and he knows he wants to be World champion, so he has got to make his decision."

Meeke won't comment on any of the speculation and, although he has said in the past he wants to stay with Citroen, he has to be tempted by the lure of being in on the ground floor of the Toyota project which is being led by four-time World champion Tommi Makinen.

Belfast Telegraph


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