Belfast Telegraph

Meeke's Citroen future up in the air after woe in Europe

 

By Sammy Hamill

What now for Kris Meeke? Does he have a future with Citroen or will Rally Deutschland prove to be a crash too many? The World Rally Championship goes on holiday for a month now but there will be lengthy meetings going on behind the scenes and in Versailles the name of the Dungannon driver is sure to be high on the agenda.

The first sign of what may be to come will be Citroen's line-up for Rally Catalunya in early October. Who will make the start in Portaventura?

Andreas Mikkelsen finished second in Germany - only Citroen's second podium of the season since Meeke won in Mexico - and made it clear afterwards he is keen to do all of the final three rounds. Drafted in mid-season to help get to the bottom of the troublesome C3's problems, he is working with the team on a rally-by-rally basis and was not in the original plans for Spain.

But after his performance in Germany it would be surprising if the Norwegian doesn't retain his place even though Stephane Lefebvre is scheduled to be back for Spain.

Craig Breen remains Citroen's leading driver in the championship, a consistent finisher who has six fifth places to his name this season. Then there is Khalid al Qassimi, an important figure in the Citroen set-up who usually contests Catalunya with his Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson.

Where all of this leaves Meeke is unclear. Dropped for Rally Poland after a series of accidents, Citroen boss Yves Matton said he needed a break to "recharge his batteries" but the decision hurt Meeke and he has shown little of his old spark in Finland, where he won last season, or in Germany.

His "stupid mistake" on the opening spectator stage compromised his entire rally, further damaged his confidence, and afterwards he rarely figured in the top five stage times before retiring when his C3 suffered a cooling problem. He has a further year to run on his contract but there are always "get out" clauses and Matton has said Citroen will use the holiday break to draw up their strategy for 2018.

"Everyone knows the next month is likely to be a busy period as regards driver transfers," he said after Germany.

"We now have a break in the WRC calendar, so we are going to use the month of September to draw up our strategy. In doing so, we are talking to the drivers who could help us to reach our goals. For the time being, nothing has been decided."

If Meeke is left out for Spain it may be a pointer to next season and with Mikkelsen waiting in the wings, along with a possible return by Sebastien Loeb, he may not be part of Citroen's strategy.

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