Belfast Telegraph

Meeke all set for rally return with new Toyota deal

 

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke's return to the World Rally Championship with Toyota is expected to be officially announced next week.

It's understood the Andorra-based Ulsterman, who was sacked by Citroën earlier this year, has agreed terms to join Tommi Makinen's Gazoo Toyota team, partnering Ott Tanak and Jari-Matti Latvala for 2019.

Neither Meeke nor Makinen have so far confirmed the deal but it is being said the official news will follow the announcement of Esapekka Lappi's move from Toyota to Citroën, which is expected on October 18.

Former Circuit of Ireland winner Lappi is to be part of a re-vamped Citroën line-up headed by World champion Sebastien Ogier who has confirmed he is quitting his current M-Sport Ford team to return to re-join Citroën.

Toyota team principal Makinen remained tight-lipped about precise details of his 2019 line-up, but earlier admitted he had held discussions with Meeke - and with Craig Breen who may lose his seat with the arrival of Lappi.

Makinen said: "They both have potential and realistically we are not thinking about not too many (other) options if we want to fight for the (2019) manufacturers' championship.

"We are preparing for possible changes in the team. We're investigating potential alternatives but there's nothing to say at the moment."

But it looks like the deal is done. "We know he is coming to Finland (where Makinen's team is based). It's an exciting time for Toyota to have three drivers so fast and all of them capable of the rally win on any event," say Finnish sources.

"We have seen Meeke's speed on any surface, he dominated in Corsica and he wins in Finland. This is special for Finnish people, it is showing what he is capable of."

Meeke, as expected, is saying nothing, as he has done since being dismissed by Citroën following "one crash too many" in Rally Portugal back in May.

But he may have to be a bit more open when he gets back in a rally car this weekend to take part in the RallyLegends event in San Marino, driving a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, his first appearance since the Portugal crash. Breen will also be there in a Citroën C4 WRC.

Belfast Telegraph

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