Belfast Telegraph

Citroen's interest in champion Ogier may impact Breen

By Sammy Hamill

After Volkswagen officially confirmed what we already knew - they are ending their four-year reign in the World Rally Championship - it was Citroen Racing boss Yves Matton who sparked speculation over the future of Sebastien Ogier.

"If the driver who has won the last four championships is on the market, we should enter into discussions with him," Matton is quoted as telling French newspaper L'Equipe.

It is a statement which could have significant implications for Citroen's two Irish drivers Kris Meeke and Craig Breen as well as Ogier's fellow Frenchman Stephane Lefebvre.

Just weeks ago Breen and Lefebvre signed contracts to partner Meeke for the next two years but if Matton is serious about bringing the World champion back to Citroen, where he began his career, it will mean a major re-think.

Meeke's position, of course, is safe, the Ulsterman having spent the majority of this season working as the chief test and development driver of Citroen's new C3 car which will debut under the revised 2017 WRC regulations in Monte Carlo in January. He has also emerged as Ogier's biggest rival and has often said how much he was looking forward to battling with him in the new cars next year.

How would he feel to have him as his team-mate? Meeke was out of contact yesterday, not even commenting as he usually does on his Twitter feed.

It is Breen and Lefebvre who would be affected if Ogier came on board. The likelihood is they would revert to alternating rally-by-rally in the third Citroen, not the scenario either of them had envisaged before VW dropped their bombshell.

But it is by no means certain Ogier will return to Citroen. Tommi Makinen, boss of the new Toyota team, has confirmed he has been in touch although it is doubtful Ogier would commit himself to a season in their untried Yaris.

However, he will walk away from VW after Rally Australia later this month with his 2017 contract paid up - reported to be around €6m - and could settle for a cut-price deal at Ford.

Just last week he expressed "regret" he had never had the opportunity to work with M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson. Now might be the time.

Belfast Telegraph


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