Former world champion Petter Solberg and his Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson have been drafted into the Peugeot line-up for next month’s Monte Carlo Rally.
The pair, who finished third in this year’s World championship, will drive a S2000 Peugeot 207 for the first time as they tackle the opening round of the Intercontinental Challenge.
“We’re really quite excited by it. It is still the biggest rally in the world even if it isn’t in the World championship these days,” said Patterson.
“Peter was very surprised when he got the call from Olivier Quesnel, director of Citroen Racing and Peugeot Sport, contacted him but he said ‘yes’ immediately.
“It will be his first rally in an S2000 car but I’m very familiar with them having covered thousands of test kilometres in Peugeots with Kris Meeke.
“It is just a one-time arrangement and as far as I know Petter has no plans for further IRC rounds.
The idea is still to be back in the WRC next season although nothing is confirmed yet,” added the Ballyclare co-driver who was a Junior WRC winner in Monte Carlo in 2005 alongside Meeke.
Solberg, of course, emerged as a leading challenger to World champion Sebastien Loeb in this year’s WRC driving a privateer Citroen C4 and is expected to make the switch to one of the new S2000-based DS3 Citroen’s next season.
But the Monte Carlo Rally remains an important event for the French company, especially in the centenary year, and with lead Peugeot driver and former IRC champion Meeke departing for BMW Mini, they have assembled a six-strong squad that also includes Stephane Sarrazin, Bryan Bouffier, Thierry Neuville, Bruno Magalhaes and Meeke’s UK replacement Guy Wilks.
It has also been confirmed that Swede P-G Andersson, tipped as a possible team-mate for Meeke at Mini, has joined Proton for a 10-round IRC campaign starting in Monte Carlo alongside Australian Chris Atkinson — a role that was originally rejected by Ireland’s British champion Keith Cronin.