I WOULD LOVE TO PARTNER OGIER AT CITROEN IN 2017 Northern Irishman would relish a champion team-mate
Britain’s Kris Meeke says he would welcome Sebastien Ogier as a team-mate at Citroen Racing next season.
Ogier would be no stranger to the Paris-based manufacturer, having started his career with Citroen before departing under something of a cloud after falling out with Sebastien Loeb at the end of 2011.
Team principal Yves Matton confirmed Ogier would be welcome back at Citroen, saying: “None of the people who were working with Sebastien at the time that he left [in 2011] are still here, they have all gone, they have all left so this wouldn’t be a problem.”
Meeke admitted the potential for competing against Ogier in the same machinery appealed.
He told MN: “I would have no problem if Sebastien came back to Citroen. I haven’t discussed this with the team, but from a personal perspective I’d maybe prefer to have him in the same team rather than in a car which might be perceived to be better. It would be a more level playing field, if you like.
“I texted Sebastien when the news came out and told him I was sorry for what had happened and that, regardless of what car, I would love to see him on the start line in Monte Carlo.”
While Matton has confirmed Meeke, Craig Breen and Stephane Lefebvre are his drivers for 2017, many see it as inevitable Ogier, Andreas Mikkelsen or Jari-matti Latvala will end up in a C3 WRC next season.
Meeke said he was relaxed about the situation, saying he respected all three VW drivers.
He added: “I haven’t talked to Yves about this at all, but for me I don’t mind who comes to the team if any one of the three of them do. I had some issues over a couple of the potential drivers for this year – I was a bit worried they could be disruptive in the team – but that’s not the case with [Sebastien] Ogier, [Jari-matti] Latvala or [Andreas] Mikkelsen. For me, those guys are all ready to roll their sleeves up and get stuck in and that’s all I want to do.”
Like the rest of the manufacturers and crews, Meeke admitted he was disappointed that Volkswagen’s departure would rob him of a shot at the champions.
He said: “We have spent so long gearing ourselves up to take on the champions and now that chance has gone in terms of VW and that’s a shame. It would have been interesting to see what we could do against them. That’s one of the biggest losses: nobody will get the chance to measure themselves against that car.
“This is bad news for the VW team, and you have to think about everybody here – not just the crews, but the engineers, mechanics, the whole team. It’s also not the best news for the championship. Along with Red Bull, VW has worked hard to build the WRC up and they’ve done a great job in terms of promotion. We have a lot to thank them for.”
MN understands the Polo R5 car had always been on the horizon for VW, with two-time champion test driver Marcus Gronholm expected to do the development work.
“They had mentioned something about this [Polo R5],” Gronholm told MN. “We were looking at next season, I don’t know now. I am also down to do a couple more days in the 2017 Polo, which I think is still happening – just some final confirmation.”
It’s possible a final sign-off test will run with the car that was scheduled to spearhead VW’S pursuit of a fifth world title.
After that, a dustsheet will be pulled over the three ’17 chassis in existence and work will cease on the build of the Monte Carlo entry cars.
What about going private?
Volkswagen will not release any of the 2017 cars for a private team to run. Throughout its fouryear World Rally Championship effort, the team has never run a private car. It was the same when VW signed-off on its Dakar programme – despite the best efforts of Nasser Al-attiyah, who had won the event in a Race Touareg ( pictured below).
There was some speculation that the Polo R WRC could be rebadged as a Skoda Fabia WRC in time for 2018 – but as one source close to the team said: “By the time we’d have gone through all this, the other teams would have developed their cars and such a Skoda would be a year out of date.”