Belfast Telegraph

Kris Meeke coming under pressure to keep seat at Citroen

By Sammy Hamill

If Kris Meeke knows where his future lies after Wales Rally GB he isn't saying. And his Citroen Racing boss Yves Matton is equally evasive.

Questioned ahead of tonight's Rally GB ceremonial start in Llandudno, Matton said the decision on the Citroen line-up for next year will be taken shortly after this weekend's final round of the 2015 World championship, insisting that he hasn't made up his mind.

"I have three possible scenarios," he said but refused to elaborate.

And asked if his current drivers - Meeke and Mads Ostberg - had met his expectations this season he swerved around the query.

"If I answer that question, I also answer to the previous one ... I must therefore abstain," said the Belgian.

All of which heaps huge pressure on Dungannon driver Meeke and his Norwegian team-mate as they prepare to head into the wet, slippery Welsh forests tomorrow morning.

This is as near as the Ulsterman gets to a home round in the WRC series and he is torn between the desire to try and emulate his one-time mentor, the late Colin McRae, on the 20th anniversary of the victory which made the Scot World champion, and the need to produce a result which will help Citroen stay ahead of Hyundai in the all-important manufacturers' championship.

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He is at pains to dampen down expectations.

"I would absolutely love to win it, of course I would, but we have to be realistic," said Meeke. "To try and win against these Volkswagen boys would be almost impossible, something would have to happen to them.

"We know where we are in terms of pace against the VWs and a podium would be a realistic target."

The "Volkswagen boys" - World champion Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen -have won every round of the series so far bar Argentina where Meeke topped the podium for the first time.

But despite being the only driver this season to break the VW stranglehold he appears to be fighting for his Citroen future and has indicated he would be prepared, reluctantly, to move on from the French team.

Indeed, Meeke is known to have visited the Hyundai facility in Germany recently although they appear to have scuppered a possible switch by naming an unchanged trio of Thierry Neuville, Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo as their drivers for 2016.

The problem for Matton, however, is where does he find a more competitive driver than the fast but sometimes error-prone Meeke?

Former Circuit of Ireland winner Esapekka Lappi, Asia-Pacific champion Pontus Tidemand and rising French star Stephane Lefebvre have all been touted as possible contenders but they lack the experience to take on the VW juggernaut.

And Meeke has shown in the previous three rounds he can be the steady team player when required, scoring the bulk of the points which are keeping Citroen ahead of Hyundai.

It is a game he must play again this weekend despite his natural instinct to attack and to challenge for a long overdue 'home' victory. Whether that will be enough to satisfy Matton and the Citroen hierarchy remains to be seen.

Meeke, meanwhile, is pleased that Rally GB organisers are celebrating McRae's 1995 victory by putting his winning Subaru Impreza 555 on display at the Deeside service park.

"Colin was a special guy and it's right that we take a moment to remember what he did for the sport and for British rallying," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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