Belfast Telegraph

Kris Meeke could make rally return for Toyota as Makinen weighs options

 

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke is staying tight-lipped over reports linking him to a return to the World Rally Championship next season with Toyota.

Sacked by Citroën after crashing out of Rally Portugal earlier this year, the Ulsterman has been on the sidelines ever since. But now Toyota team principal Tommi Makinen has confirmed he has discussed the possibility of signing Meeke as a replacement for former Circuit of Ireland winner Esapekka Lappi.

The Finn is expected to move the other way, joining Craig Breen and, possibly, five times World champion Sebastien Ogier in a much re-vamped Citroën team.

Makinen, who tried to sign Meeke in 2015, said: "I spoke with Kris, he could be one option, one possibility. We will speak to Japan (Toyota) and we look at different options.

"For sure Kris is a very fast driver, sometimes even too fast. But I think he is at the right age and experience, everything I'm pretty sure he could do well."

The five-time WRC winner has steadfastly refused to comment on his sacking, which is thought to be the subject of legal proceedings, nor would he discuss a possible move to Toyota.

But he will be back in a rally car for the first time at next month's RallyLegend event in San Marino where he is scheduled to drive an ex-Colin McRae car - the former World champion was his early mentor.

Toyota has a confirmed deal with WRC title contender Ott Tanak for next season and Jari-Matti Latvala is also close to agreeing a new contract but Lappi's management team is understood to be engaged in advanced negotiations with Citroën.

Makinen's only concern with signing Meeke centres on how he would work with Tanak, winner of the last three rounds of this year's WRC series.

"This is the thing: I know that Kris is a driver who is wanting to win. A lot," said Makinen.

"And we have a driver already who wants to win. A lot. What could the combination be?

"But I think this is not a big drama. We will see what is happening, but for sure Kris is a fast driver."

The Andorra-based Dungannon man is a former Intercontinental champion with Peugeot and is the only driver to win for Citroën since the retirement of nine-times champion Sebastien Loeb.

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