MEEKE:

I WOULD LOVE TO PART­NER OGIER AT CITROEN IN 2017 North­ern Ir­ish­man would rel­ish a cham­pion team-mate

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By David Evans

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.”

Ogier (left) at Citroen would please Meeke Ogier was third in the points with Citroen in 2011

Red Bull will stick with driv­ers

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