Kris Meeke has signed a new three-year deal with Citroen in WRC and the British driver will take up a development role in 2016 after the manufacturer withdrew its entry into the championship.
The Northern Irish driver's future had been thrown into some doubt over the past few weeks after Citroen confirmed its new WRC programme, which will see it pull out of the 2016 championship to concentrate on working on a new car ahead of the 2017 regulations revamp.
Meeke, who joined the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team at the end of the 2013 season, will work as test and development driver next year before returning to the WRC with Citroen in 2017 and 2018, while Irish co-driver Paul Nagle will stay on as his partner. Meeke is also expected to compete in 'several rounds' of the 2016 World Rally Championship as a private entry.
“Various options were available to me to pursue my career, but I chose to stay with Citroën Racing to reap the rewards of the work done over the last two years or more,” Meeke, who claimed an emotiona maiden WRC win at Rally Argentina this season, said. “It's also a way of thanking the team for the faith they have shown in me. We now know each other very well and this understanding will be essential in developing the new car successfully.
Meeke says he is relishing the role of helping build a new WRC challenger next year and as a former design engineer wants to become fully immersed in the project before returning to racing in 2017.
“I'm very excited about everything that lies ahead in the next few months,” he explained. “I began my career in motorsport as a design engineer so although I can't wait to get into the car, I'll be following every stage of the design and assembly of the first car with great interest.
“I'm also very excited about the new FIA regulations, which look set to deliver more powerful and more spectacular cars. Obviously, all of this work is geared towards me being able to fight for more wins and for the world title. Citroën Racing is team with a winning mentality, with fifteen world titles, eight of which were won in the WRC. I am extremely pleased to be part of this new chapter in the history of such a prestigious brand.”
Citroen Racing team principal Yves Matton has echoed Meeke's sentiments and is thrilled to secure his first driver for the new chapter in the French manufacturer's history.
“In terms of our new programme, above all else we wanted an experienced, top-level driver, with sound technical knowledge,” Matton said. “Kris was undoubtedly the best choice and we are delighted that he has decided to stay with us.
“The most important part of his career is ahead of him, with three seasons to develop and achieve success in the successor to the Xsara, C4 and DS 3 WRC. In 2016, the test programme will be the priority for Kris from April, when initial testing of the new car is set to begin.”
Matton has also confirmed Meeke will remain sharp by racing in 'several rounds' of the WRC and details of the private programme will be announced in the coming weeks.