BRITISH driver Kris Meeke’s future in the FIA World Rally Championship is in doubt after the official Citroën team dropped him from the remainder of the 2018 season, citing “an excessively high number of crashes”.
PHOTO: Kris Meeke celebrates one of his five Citroēn victories in the WRC (Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Media pic)
Team principal Pierre Budar said the stunning decision was a preventative measure for the safety of Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle, who were lucky to escape a violent crash on last weekend’s Rally Portugal.
The pair’s Citroën C3 went off the road and into trees at high speed on Saturday afternoon. He and Nagle weren’t injured, but the car was destroyed.
The most dramatic move in the WRC season so far means Meeke won’t contest Rally Italia Sardegna on 7-10 June, where Citroën will be represented by Craig Breen/Scott Martin and Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen.
The team said it would shortly announce its line-up for the remainder of the season, including Kennards Hire Rally Australia on 15-19 November. Nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb has one more appearance scheduled in his three-event comeback programme with Citroën, in Spain in October.
A team statement from its base near Paris on Thursday afternoon said: “Due to an excessively high number of crashes, some of which were particularly heavy and could have had serious consequences with regard to the crew’s safety, and given that the risks involved were unjustified by the sporting stakes at play, Citroën Racing WRT has decided to terminate the participation of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in the 2018 WRC.”
Pierre Budar added: “This wasn’t an easy decision to make because it effects (sic) a driver and a co-driver, but it is largely founded on safety issues which come under my preoccupations as Team Principal. We have consequently chosen to make this decision as a preventive measure.”
Citroën did not say if Meeke would be involved with the team after this year.
Mentored by the late world champion Colin McRae, the Ulsterman, now 38, got his chance with the WRC elite when he joined Citroën late in 2013, just in time for Rally Australia. Blazing speed netted victories in Argentina in 2015, Portugal and Finland in 2016 and Mexico and Spain in 2017; his Finnish win was the first by a British driver.
But his talent seemed too often compromised by crashes. Last year, although he won in Mexico, a disappointing mid-season run of results led to him being benched in Poland.
Meeke contested Rally Australia in 2013 (retired), 2014 (4th), 2015 (3rd) and last year (7th).