Belfast Telegraph

Meeke and Breen fighting to prove World worth

 

Toyota task: Kris Meeke needs to show he’s a team player
Toyota task: Kris Meeke needs to show he’s a team player
Craig Breen

By Sammy Hamill

Rally GB is set to play a crucial role in the outcome of this year's World Championship. It may also determine the futures of Kris Meeke and Craig Breen.

The top three in the standings - Ott Tanak, Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville - are covered by just 30 points, the same number potentially available to the winner this weekend, and with just two more rounds to follow, the wet Welsh forests will provide a significant pointer to the outcome of both the drivers' and manufacturers' titles.

It is the team support of Meeke, Breen and former Circuit of Ireland winner Esapekka Lappi which could prove critical to the Championship contenders and, for the two Irish drivers, how they contribute to the bigger picture is likely to have a major say in shaping their prospects for next year.

Meeke is on a one-year contract with Toyota and, while he started strongly, a series of lapses in mid-season brought criticism from team principal Tommi Makinen and did little to enhance his hopes of an extension.

The Dungannon man redeemed himself with a strong second place behind team-mate Tanak in Germany and his aim must be to play a similar co-starring role this weekend.

For sure, he wants to win his 'home' round of the WRC series, but can he risk an all-out attack, even over stages where he began his career and knows well, when so much is at stake for his team?

Having proved himself a loyal team player in his one previous appearance for Hyundai in Finland, sacrificing his top-five position to aid Neuville, Breen has been brought in again to back up the Belgian and, if possible, disrupt the duel between Championship leader Tanak and Citroen's six-time champion Ogier.

After being axed by Citroen, along with Meeke, at the end of last season, Breen dropped down a level to win a string of rallies in Italy, Belgium and, of course, Ireland, but he desperately wants a full-time return to the World series.

Hyundai boss Andrea Adamo has dangled the possibility in front of him, and no one is more determined than Breen to seize it, but what transpires over the next three days could play a big part in deciding where he and Andorra neighbour Meeke will be spending 2020.

Both of them will be keeping an eye out for Josh McErlean from Kilrea, who will be making his World Championship debut and driving an R5 Hyundai for the first time, his reward for winning the British Junior title.

The action gets under way this morning with the shakedown test before the crews leave Wales and cross into England for the ceremonial start in Liverpool and the opening super-special stage at Oulton Park race circuit this evening.

Then, it is into the forests tomorrow morning.

Tanak leads the drivers' standing by 17 points from Ogier, with Neuville another 13 behind, but Hyundai are 19 points ahead of Toyota in the all-important manufacturers' table.

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