Belfast Telegraph

Dungannon's Kris Meeke says 'Ciao' to his World Rally Championship career

 

New horizons: what next for Meeke?
New horizons: what next for Meeke?

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke appears to have called time on his World Rally Championship career - for now at least.

Typically, the Dungannon driver has not announced his retirement formally but has posted an intriguing message on his social media sites saying:

"Ciao for now #WRC... Thanks tgr wrc toyota_gazoo_racing. Time to explore some other passions. Let's see what's 2020 brings…"

The message is accompanied by a picture of him preparing to go skiing, presumably in the Pyrenees where he now lives.

So, after more than 100 appearances at rallying's highest level, including five memorable victories, it seems Meeke has accepted there is no place for him in the 2020 WRC series.

His decision comes in the wake of a driver merry-go-round which was kickstarted by his 2019 Toyota team-mate Ott Tanak winning the World Championship and immediately announcing he was jumping ship to Hyundai where he will line up alongside one of his fiercest rivals, Thierry Neuville.

Tanak's departure opened the door for Sebastien Ogier to break his Citroen contract and join a re-vamped Toyota team which saw Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala ousted to make way for former Ulster Rally winner Elfyn Evans and teenage WRC2 champion Kalle Rovanpera.

Sign In

Citroen, where Meeke had spent most of his World Championship career before being sacked in 2018 after yet another crash in Portugal, responded to six-time champion Ogier's exit by pulling the plug on their long WRC involvement with immediate effect.

With the number of manufacturer teams reduced to three for next season, and only Evans' position at M-Sport Ford remaining to be filled, Meeke and Latvala joined a list of upwards of half-a-dozen established drivers left out in the cold.

Toyota boss Tommi Makinen, impressed with Queen's University engineering graduate Meeke's input to the team, has suggested there could be a test and development role for him as they prepare to introduce their new GR-4 Yaris WRC car but the Andorra-based Ulsterman has not commented.

Nor has he commented on his future plans apart from saying he intends to pursue "some other passions".

An adrenalin junkie, these passions include skiing, snowboarding, cycling and enduro bike riding - he completed the gruelling Baja 1000 across the California desert in 2012 and has ridden several of the Tour de France mountain stages.

It is unlikely he has finished with motorsport completely and rallycross or cross-country rallying, even circuit racing are other options.

But having turned 40 this year it is known he has grown tired of the constant travelling, especially the long-haul trips to the Far East, Australia and South America, and the time spent away from wife Danielle and young daughters Isabella and Alexandra.

If he has appeared in the WRC for the last time, Meeke will be best remembered for his stunning victory in Rally Finland in 2016, the only British driver to have won the event known as the Holy Grail of Rallying.

Having won the Intercontinental Challenge for Peugeot in 2009, his other WRC victories came in Argentina, Portugal, Mexico and Spain, all in Citroens, and he remains the most successful British driver after Colin McRae and Richard Burns.

Still regarded as one of the four fastest drivers currently in the WRC, he should have won more but too often strayed over what he called the "fine line between glory and disaster".

His maximum attack attitude was part of his appeal, as is witnessed by the hundreds of posts on social media lamenting his departure although one pointed out he could now stop his cardiac medication. The WRC will be a much duller place without him.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph