LOEB: MEEKE IS BEST CHOICE
Nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb has backed Britain’s Kris Meeke to return Citroen to the top of the World Rally Championship.
Loeb, who is now contesting his first Dakar Rally as part of Peugeot’s four-car South American assault, admitted to Motorsport News (December 30) that he was keen to help Citroen develop its new 2017 World Rally Car before he was shown the door from the team he’d helped to 17 world titles in a decade. In his absence, he said Meeke was the best choice.
Loeb told MN: “[Sebastien] Ogier is the strongest driver, but I don’t know what is his level to develop a car – but for sure he is contracted to Volkswagen, so you don’t speak about Ogier. It’s a bit the same with Latvala.
“I think it’s a good choice [to take Meeke]. He is very clever because he’s an engineer as well as a driver. Kris understands well how the car is working, so to develop a new car they need him. And to develop the car, I imagine Meeke could be better than a few of these guys. And apart from Kris, today, then I don’t see who else.”
Citroen’s 2017 C3 WRC is expected to break cover in March, but the significant testing for Meeke will take place through the summer. Prior to that, he will contest selected rounds of the world championship in a DS 3 WRC, starting with the Monte Carlo Rally later this month.
Meeke admitted he was flattered by Loeb’s words. “We all know what Sebastien Loeb has achieved in this sport and, in all honesty, the records he has set are unlikely to ever be broken. To have the backing of a guy like that is good, it’s great, but at the same time I still have to get in there and get the job done. Sebastien Loeb and Citroen set the bar very high when they were at the top of their games and it’s that level that we’re aiming to get back to.”