Hyundai, Toyota interested in signing axed WRC Citroen driver Meeke

Autosport

The Hyundai and Toyota World Rally Championship teams have both expressed interest in signing axed Citroen driver Kris Meeke.

The Northern Irishman was dropped by Citroen last week for what the team described as an “excessively high number of crashes”, in the wake of a violent shunt on Rally Portugal.

Meeke was unavailable for comment when contacted by Autosport earlier this week, but sources close to the 38-year-old have said he is angry and upset at Citroen’s decision.

His chances of finding a way back into the WRC this season are remote, but there could be openings for 2019 when the driver market starts to move at the end of this season.

Hyundai’s Alain Penasse said he thought Meeke still had plenty to offer in the WRC. “For the moment there’s no contact [with Meeke], but it depends on how the driver market is,” said Penasse.

“There’s no doubt that Kris Meeke is a driver who can win WRC events; he is very fast, but very inconsistent – we have seen this throughout his career which is going up and down.

“He’s got the speed and he’s not somebody you would have sitting on the bench.

“He’s like Jari-Matti Latvala: a driver who’s not so consistent, but will win you one or two rallies a year.

“We consider all drivers, especially guys who are free and on the market. It’s a bit early now, but we have to see what happens.”

Penasse said Citroen’s improved form in 2018 meant the vacant seat was likely to attract attention for ’19, including from the likes of Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon – who are splitting outings in Hyundai’s third i20 across this season.

“I can imagine there’s going to be some interest in Citroen [and Meeke’s seat] now,” he said.

“Last year Citroen wasn’t really a danger, but now they have good results and I’m sure drivers will consider them.

“We have Dani and Hayden on limited programmes and if you offered another year of seven rallies against a full programme with Citroen, they would probably be quite interested in that.

“I don’t think those guys will be happy to share a car again.”

Meeke was involved in lengthy negotiations and was offered a deal by Toyota in 2015 before he decided to commit to Citroen.

Prior to news of Meeke’s departure last week, Toyota team principal Tommi Makinen said he would be interested in talking to Meeke about a potential future deal.

M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson told Autosport it was “sad” the WRC was losing a rally winner and a British driver “when we’re making such good strides with rallying in this country”.

But added he was “very happy” with his driver line-up when asked if he would be interested in Meeke.

Hyundai, Toyota interested in signing axed WRC Citroen driver Meeke

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