It's been a turbulent month within the World Rally Championship with the cancellation of Rally Australia and now the confirmation that French manufacturer Citroen has withdrawn from the series with immediate effect.
That announcement came on Wednesday when they severed a two year-commitment with its C3 World Rally Car that was set to run until the end of 2020.
Paying tribute to Citroen Racing for its “passion and commitment”, a statement from Citroen CEO Linda Jackson said.
A part of Citroen’s DNA is intimately linked with the rally and we are proud to be one of the most titled brands in WRC history with 102 victories and eight manufacturer titles.
The announcement frees up its drivers Sebastien Ogier and Esapekka Lappi and it is anticipated that Ogier along with current M-Sport driver Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanpera will ply their trade with the Toyota Gazoo racing outfit next season.
The merry go round has consequences for Irish drivers Kris Meeke and Craig Breen, the loss of Citroen has cut the driver market by 25%.
Newly-crowned world champion Ott Tanak has already departed Toyota for Hyundai and with fewer seats available it also leaves the likes of Jari Matti Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen, Esapekka Lappi, and Mads Ostberg all fighting for their future. M-Sport has yet to announce its 2020 line-up.
Korean manufacturer Hyundai were seemingly keen on a role for Breen, but that is far from a certainty due to recent events.
The possibility of the Waterford driver campaigning a Hyundai with a second team and support from a tyre manufacturer appears to have waned, it may well be that Breen could slip down to competing at WRC2. Such is the volatility of the situation that anything is still possible.
Meanwhile, the Cork crew and current leaders James Fitzgerald/ Ken Carmody face the long journey to Drumshambo for tomorrow night’s Midland Navigation trial, the third round of the National Navigation Trial Championship. It is also a counter in the Munster Navigation series.
The 85-mile event has all the championship contenders including Ulster duo Derek Mackarel/Conor Boylan and the Cork crews of Owen Murphy/Daire Hayes and Derek Butler/Denis O’Donovan. The first car away from the Mayflower Hall, Drumshambo, is at 9.01pm.
The five-day Roger Albert Clark Rally got underway in Leominster last night with three stages and a further eight stages today before the entourage moves to Carlisle this evening, from where the event is based, until the Monday finish.