Citroen's WRC future in doubt as Meeke mentor takes up FIA role
Yves Matton, a central figure in the careers of both Kris Meeke and Craig Breen, has quit Citroen Racing to become the FIA's new rally director.
The timing of the move, coming less than two weeks before the Monte Carlo Rally and the start of the 2018 World championship, is seen as less than ideal and even raises questions over Citroen's WRC future.
It also comes on the back of a turbulent year for Citroen in which their 2017 Citroen C3 WRC, a car more than year in development and overseen by Matton, proved disappointing.
Meeke and Matton go back to the Dungannon driver's Junior WRC days.
In fact it was the Belgian who brought Meeke home for the 2006 Ulster Rally to showcase Citroen's new C2 and he briefly led the event in the little Super 1600cc car.
He went on to win the Intercontinental Challenge series for sister company Peugeot in 2009 before leaving the PSA Group to step up to the World championship with the new Prodrive Mini project.
But when it collapsed at the end of 2011, it was Matton who offered him a lifeline, bringing the Ulsterman back as a test and development driver and gave him the chance to return to the World championship in Finland and Australia in 2013.
He joined the team full-time under Matton in 2014 and has been their lead driver ever since, winning five times. Last year he was joined by Breen, another driver who came up through the Peugeot ranks, twice winning the Circuit of Ireland.
Both have one year to run on their current contracts and there is speculation that Citroen will end their long WRC involvement at the end of the season, possibly to be replaced by Peugeot.
The two PSA companies combined their motorsport activities and with Peugeot currently competing on the Dakar Rally for the last time, it is being suggested a new WRC car is in the pipeline for as early as 2019.
Perhaps Matton saw the writing on the wall and opted to take up the role of FIA rally director, replacing Jarmo Mahonen.