Belfast Telegraph

Meeke was not under control, says Citroen boss

 

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke's Rally Portugal crash was one accident too many for his Citroen bosses, hence the shock decision to sack him with immediate effect.

It was team principal Pierre Budar who delivered the news in a phone call to Meeke in Andorra on Thursday afternoon, but the decision was taken higher up the chain of command including, it seems, head of the PSA Group Carlos Tavares, and Linda Jackson, CEO of Citroen.

In his only UK interview with Autosport magazine, Budar explained the priority had to be turning Citroen's troubled season around and to look after the welfare of the crews.

"Because this is a dangerous sport, you have to be able to deal with this danger," Budar said.

"When you think about Portugal, you are in a situation when the car is perfect for the driver - you can refer to what Kris said during the rally.

"The pacenotes were supposed to be perfect and you have no pressure because your position in the ranking doesn't allow you to reach anything.

"You are supposed to be in a position when you are safe on the road.

"You know the result - meaning, it's not under control.

"We don't have control on the situation anymore. If we lose control then we can wonder what will be next."

The Dungannon driver, who won in Portugal in 2016, led again this year but two punctures dropped him down to seventh place with little prospect of making up lost ground.

He crashed on the 12th stage, his C3 Citroen destroyed in a heavy impact with a tree.

Miraculously, neither Meeke nor co-driver Paul Nagle were seriously injured, although Kris was flown to hospital in Porto for precautionary checks.

He was released later the same day.

But Citroen were clearly concerned that he crashed when under no pressure other than to finish the rally. They decided enough was enough.

"If we only look at last year and this year, we have several examples of huge crashes for Kris when there was no reason to take so many risks," Budar said.

But everyone who has driven the unpredictable C3 WRC, from Craig Breen and Stephane Lefebvre to nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, have crashed it.

However, Budar claimed: "OK, you can also consider the car's not so bad when Kris is able to win with it.

"He won in Spain and he was able to win in Mexico. You cannot only talk of the car being to blame."

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