Belfast Telegraph

Kris Meeke's future with Citroen unclear as team eye Ogier

 

By Sammy Hamill

The driver situation at Citroen has become more intriguing after team principal Yves Matton confirmed "his priority" is to sign Sebastien Ogier for the 2018 World Rally Championship.

In a week when he ended speculation over Kris Meeke's immediate future with the French team by naming him in the line-up for Rally Catalunya at the beginning of October, Matton gave interviews in which he revealed he had been in discussion with Ogier over the last month and says he can now see no major obstacles standing in the way of a deal to bring the four-time World champion back to the team he left in 2011.

"We are making it our priority in our plans to make him join our team," Matton said.

What this would mean for Meeke is unclear, although Matton previously said: "Kris has a contract for next year and is part of the team."

But the relationship between the Dungannon driver and the team has become strained in recent weeks following the decision to replace him with Andreas Mikkelsen for Rally Poland after a series of accidents since he won Rally Mexico earlier in the year.

Meeke was not happy and spoke out to say "there were some elements" in the team who were not supporting him. A further crash on the opening spectator stage of Rally Germany seemed to raise further questions about his future with the team, including whether he would drive in Spain.

On deadline day for entries, Citroen announced Meeke would lead the team with Craig Breen, their top points scorer this season, standing down to make way for the return of Stephane Lefebvre and Khalid Al Qassimi.

The announcement came just as Hyundai were springing a surprise with the news that Mikkelsen, thought to be a candidate for a Citroen seat next season, would be driving for them in the remaining three rounds this year.

Now it seems Mikkelsen was not Citroen's target at all - they were intent on attracting Ogier back even though his departure six years ago was acrimonious.

He went to Volkswagen, won four World titles and is closing in on a fifth with the M-Sport Ford team. No wonder Citroen see him as the man to help them re-build after the disasters of 2017.

Matton said: "We are step by step right now and it's difficult to say what will be his final answer - for sure, we are not the only ones who are trying to convince him!

"At the moment there is not a major obstacle. That's not to say there may not be an obstacle and it could be a major one."

Ogier has the option of staying with M-Sport but he said last month that while this was his preference, he would only remain if official Ford manufacturer support was forthcoming or a major backer was found.

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