The line up for next year’s Word Rally Championship is taking shape following two major announcements this week.
The highest profile announcement came from Toyota Gazoo Racing with Irish driver Kris Meeke joining Ott Tanak and Jari-Matti Latvala in factory Yaris World Rally Cars. However, after more than 10 years together Meeke has split from Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle. Meeke, who was sacked from Citroen earlier in the year, replaces Esapekka Lappi, who has moved to Citroen to join world champion Sebastien Ogier, who will leave M-Sport at the end of the current season.
Last May, Tyrone man Meeke (39) and Nagle crashed out of the Vodafone Rally de Portugal and were axed a few days later.
Meeke said: “It’s a huge pleasure and honour for me to become a Toyota driver. I’d like to thank Akio Toyoda, Tommi Makinen and the entire Toyota team for their faith in me. Three years ago, we first discussed the possibility of me joining the team.
With Seb Marshall tipped to become his new co-driver, Meeke took to social media to pay tribute to his former co-driver Nagle, who was unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT confirmed that Lappi and his co-driver Janne Ferm will join its works team in 2019 where Ogier and Julien Ingrassia make a return after terms with Volkswagen Motorsport and M-Sport that has seen them claim five World titles (four in the VW Polo WRC and one in a Fiesta WRC) and they are still in the reckoning with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Toyota’s Ott Tanak for this year’s title.
Citroen’s announcement makes no mention of Craig Breen, while it appears they have a one-year option on the Waterford driver, there is increasing speculation he will move to M-Sport to team up with Finland’s Teemu Suninen (Ford Fiesta WRC). Rumour also abound about a move to Hyundai as a possible replacement for Hayden Paddon, who is being associated with M-Sport.
Belfast racing driver Charlie Eastwood (23) is the latest nominee for the Young Racing Driver of the Month.
His selection comes on the back of his TF Sport team’s runner-up position in the GTE Am class at the Silverstone round of the World Endurance Championship. Last year he won the Pro Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship.
Meanwhile, Derry’s Jordan Hone is the most recent bi-monthly nominee for the Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver Award. The 22 year-old from Claudy campaigned an Opel Adam to victory in the Junior class of the Cork Forest Rally and a class win on the Ulster International Rally. The winners of both awards will receive €50,000 worth of support to compete nationally and internationally.
On the competitive front, the Irish Rallycross Championship continues with the latest round in Mondello Park on Sunday, the Munster Car Club’s Lose Surface Autocross, a counting round of the Munster Autocross Championship also on Sunday, takes place in Ladysbridge while the Galway Motor Club host a similar event in Ballycumber, County Offaly.