Monte Carlo or bust for Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle

With their Citroen DS3 WRC armed with several significant upgrades to the engine, suspension, aerodynamics and gearbox, the Irish crew of Meeke and Paul Nagle expect to be fighting for the leading places on Rallye Monte Carlo that cranks into gear this evening.

Monte Carlo or bust for Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle

The Tyrone/Kerry partnership head the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team and will be joined on a one-off appearance by nine times World champion Sebastien Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena - both crews have been nominated to score championship points.

Meeke doesn’t hide his goals: “Last year I was experiencing the vast majority of the rallies for the first time. I learned a lot and realised just how important it is to rack up the miles and experience. Generally speaking, all drivers make progress in their second full season and I hope I’m no exception. I also think the work done on the DS 3 WRC is going to help us to go faster. My goal is to fight for one of the leading places.”

This will be Meeke’s seventh appearance in Monte Carlo but only his second in a WRC — he was third on his debut with the Citroen team last year. Work on the engine has resulted in more power and torque and it has also added more reliability according to Xavier Mestelan-Pinon, Citroen Racing’s Technical Director.

Mads Ostberg competes in the third Citroen car and former winner of the Citroen Top Driver series Sebastien Chardonnet will drive a privately-supported DS 3 WRC.

Welsh ace Elfyn Evans and Ott Tanak carry the challenge of the M-Sport World Rally Team and Hyundai’s hopes rest with Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo.

How all of them — including Loeb, who has won the Monte seven times — will fare against the VW Polo’s of Sebastien Ogier, the World champion and team mates Jari Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen will become clear after the cars roll off the start ramp at the Casino Palace in Monaco this evening (6.30pm) and tackle two 20km stages of the opening leg, Entrevaux – Rouaine and Norante – Dignes les Bains.

Meanwhile, Peugeot Rally Academy driver Craig Breen is also flying the Irish flag in the principality. The Monte is the first of seven events in the WRC2 category for the Waterford driver. Monaghan’s Daniel McKenna opens his account in the WRC3 campaign and Wexford’s Eamonn Boland (Subaru) aims for yet another solid result.

On Saturday, Antrim’s Desi Henry (Mitsubishi) and his Cork co-driver Liam Moynihan head the entry for the six stage Carey Floorcare Equipment Icebreaker Rally in the Ballyboley Forest complex in Antrim.

For Henry, who lost the National Forest Championship by a point last season, its the ideal shakedown ahead of next week’s Valvoline series opener in Donegal. Opposition features Martin Cairns (S14 Subaru WRC), Niall Henry (Mitsubishi), Dermot O’Hagan (Mitsubishi) and the leading two-wheel drive Ford Escort pair of Vivian Hamill and Adrian Hetherington. Kieron Graffin (Mitsubishi), who made an early exit from last week’s New Year Rally in Kirkistown is also on the entry list. Elsewhere, on Saturday, the Donegal Navigation Trial begins from Termon, Letterkenny at 9pm. On Sunday, the TDC Multi-Venue Autotest at Mondello Park has a 9.30am start and the Cavan Loose Surface Autocross at Latton Quarry gets underway at 10.30am.

In circuit racing, the famous Rolex 24 at Daytona gets the green light at 2.10 local time on Saturday. Cork’s Matt Griffin will race with the AF Corse outfit in the No. 49 Ferrari 458 GTD. On this occasion his team mates are Italian duo Michele Rugolo and Rui Agues along with Thai driver Pasin Lathorus. Just two weeks ago Griffin was on the podium in the Dubai 24 Hour.

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CourtsPlace: MontePlace: Casino PalacePlace: MonacoPlace: Dignes les BainsPlace: WaterfordPlace: MonaghanPlace: WexfordPlace: AntrimPlace: CorkPlace: Ballyboley Forest complexPlace: DonegalPlace: KirkistownPlace: TermonPlace: Mondello ParkPlace: Latton QuarryPlace: DaytonaPerson: Kris MeekePerson: Paul NaglePerson: MeekePerson: Sebastien LoebPerson: Daniel ElenaPerson: Xavier Mestelan-PinonPerson: Mads OstbergPerson: Sebastien ChardonnetPerson: Elfyn EvansPerson: Ott TanakPerson: Thierry NeuvillePerson: Dani SordoPerson: LoebPerson: Sebastien OgierPerson: Jari Matti LatvalaPerson: Andreas MikkelsenPerson: Craig BreenPerson: Daniel McKennaPerson: Desi HenryPerson: Liam MoynihanPerson: HenryPerson: Martin CairnsPerson: Niall HenryPerson: Dermot O’HaganPerson: Vivian HamillPerson: Adrian HetheringtonPerson: Kieron GraffinPerson: Matt GriffinPerson: Michele RugoloPerson: Rui AguesPerson: Pasin LathorusPerson: GriffinEvent: Monte CarloEvent: Rallye Monte CarloEvent: CitroenEvent: MonteEvent: WRC2Event: WRC3Event: Carey Floorcare Equipment Icebreaker RallyEvent: National Forest ChampionshipEvent: ValvolineEvent: New Year rallyEvent: Donegal Navigation TrialEvent: TDC Multi-Venue AutotestEvent: AutocrossEvent: Rolex 24Event: Dubai 24 HourOrganisation: Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally TeamOrganisation: CitroenOrganisation: Citroen RacingOrganisation: M-Sport World Rally TeamOrganisation: HyundaiOrganisation: VW PoloOrganisation: Peugeot Rally AcademyOrganisation: SubaruOrganisation: MitsubishiOrganisation: FordOrganisation: AF Corse
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