Belfast Telegraph

Tanak shock move could affect Breen and Meeke


Craig Breen
Craig Breen

by sammy hamill

The decision of new world rally champion Ott Tanak to quit his title-winning Toyota team and jump ship to Hyundai for next season has thrown the driver market into turmoil.

And it could have important implications for Kris Meeke and maybe even Craig Breen, who has had a surprise recall to the Hyundai for the final round of this year's series in Australia.

Tanak secured the title for the first time in Spain last weekend but shortly afterwards Hyundai revealed that he had signed a two-year contract to switch teams, kick-starting a frenzy of speculation as to who will replace him at Toyota.

Team boss Tommi Makinen had already hinted before the Tanak announcement that Meeke could be offered a contract extension and the departure of the new champion has surely increased the likelihood that the Dungannon driver will remain for a second season.

Impressive teenager Kalle Rovanpera, winner of this year's World WRC2 Championship, has already been signed but who fills the third role within the team?

Will Toyota stick with Jari-Matti Latvala, one of the original members of Makinen's team, but who, like Meeke, has had a hit-and-miss season, or will they seek to replace Tanak with a driver their Japanese paymasters believe has the potential to bring them a world title?

These questions have fired up speculation they could turn to Sebastien Ogier, who has a further year to run on his Citroen contract but is said to have become disillusioned with the French team's failure to overcome the problems which have bedevilled their C3, making it undriveable in certain situations, just as Meeke and Breen found before him.

Hyundai No.1 Thierry Neuville has officially welcomed Tanak to the team but mischievously tweeted a 'Happy Halloween' message from Jyvaskyl, the base of Makinen's Toyota team.

Breen remains on the fringes of the Hyundai team, being drafted in for a third appearance of the season in Australia in preference to Andreas Mikkelsen, who could now be on Makinen's radar as could Irish champion Breen or Ford's former Ulster Rally winner Elfyn Evans.

But, stung by Tanak's departure, Toyota may respond by finding a way to break serial winners Ogier or Neuville free from their current contracts.

Belfast Telegraph


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