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PHOTO: Kris Meeke in action at Coates Hire Rally Australia (Geoff Ridder pic)

(9/12/2013)  KRIS Meeke and Mads Ostberg will be the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s two main drivers in 2014.

Ending months of speculation, Citroen Racing announced its 2014 season driver line-up on Monday night.

The team also confirmed that 2013 team member Khalid Al Qassimi will drive a third DS3 World Rally Car on the rounds in Sweden, Portugal, Italy and Spain.

Both Meeke, who will be co-driven by Paul Nagle and Østberg, who is partnered by Jonas Andersson, were on a shortlist of five drivers announced by team boss Yves Matton in October.

Of the other three on the list, Mikko Hirvonen and Robert Kubica move to Ford and Dani Sordo to Hyundai.

“Our team line-up for the 2014 season is in keeping with our ambitions,” Matton said.

“Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg have followed very different career paths, but both of them are on the cusp of making it into the very top class of world rally drivers.

“After an initial phase of learning and getting to know each other, our goal will be to help them to improve and turn them into real contenders for victory.”

Meeke is well known to Matton and Citroen, having come through the ranks of Citroën Racing’s promotional formulas, before driving a C2 Super 1600 in the Junior WRC.

After a stint at Mini in 2011, he was given two test rallies with Citroen in 2013, in Finland and Australia, but despite impressive stage times his future remained in doubt after he crashed on both occasions. His new contract makes him the first British driver to race a full season since Colin McRae’s 2003 swansong with Citroën.

“It’s an incredible opportunity. I’ve always been close to Citroën over the last few years,” Meeke said.

“I’m really lucky to be able to work with a team that has so much experience and so many titles.

“I have only competed in 10 World Championship rallies in a World Rally Car. I think I’ve got some potential, but I still need to get some experience under my belt. I know that I’ll have to be patient in the first half of the season and learn all about the rallies that I haven’t done before.”

Østberg, 26, will make the switch from the Ford Fiesta WRC he has driven since 2011. With seven podium finishes to his name at world level, he notched up his first WRC victory at the Rally of Portugal in 2012.

“I am very happy and proud to be joining Citroën Racing,” explained the Norwegian.

“We worked hard to get an official driver’s spot. After so many years watching Citroën win, it’s a dream come true to be part of this team.

“Competing is the most important thing and even though I don’t know the team or the car yet, I can recognise the worth of the guys and the Citroën DS3 WRC.

“Of course, I’m joining Citroën Racing to get some good results and to try and win some rallies. I’ve always shown that I could be quick. I know that the standard in the World Rally Championship is exceptionally high, but I want to be competitive!”

Citroën Racing will present its new team on Monday 16 December, at a press conference in Versailles. The event will be broadcast on the site at 14:30 CET.

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.