Meeke and Nagle agree extended deal at Citroen

Tyrone’s Kris Meeke and his Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle have ended weeks of speculation after they confirmed they are to remain with Citroen for the next three seasons.

Meeke and Nagle agree extended deal at Citroen

The French outfit will take a year out from the WRC next season to develop their new World Rally car for the 2017 season, with Meeke/Nagle spearheading the team’s new WRC programme.

Meeke was linked with Toyota but instead has chosen to remain loyal to the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team with whom he made his debut at the end of the 2013 season.

This season the Dungannon-born 35-year-old was the only driver to break the VW dominance in the WRC and guided by Nagle took victory in Rally Argentina. Meeke is hailed as one of the best test and development drivers on the scene and is key to the Citroen Racing plan to return to top-level competition in 2017.

The contract that runs until the end of 2018 is a great opportunity for Meeke and it brings stability to his rallying career for the very first time.

“Various options were available to me to pursue my career, but I chose to stay with Citroen Racing to reap the rewards of the work done over the last two years or more,” said Meeke.

“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. I’m very excited about everything that lies ahead in the next few months. 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.”

The new FIA regulations are set to allow more powerful and more spectacular cars, with Meeke excited about what lies head: “Obviously, all of this work is geared towards me being able to fight for more wins and for the world title. Citroen Racing is team with a winning mentality, with 15 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, who put great faith in Meeke a few seasons ago said: “Kris was undoubtedly the best choice and we are delighted that he has decided to stay with us. However, 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.”

While the test programme will be the priority from April next, Matton pointed out that Meeke/Nagle will participate in some rounds of the 2016 World Championship as part of a private programme, details of which will be revealed shortly. Meanwhile, a delighted Paul Nagle added: “It is a fantastic opportunity to get a three-year deal to develop the new car and have stability in the WRC that we didn’t have before. Kris has given me the opportunity, he stood by me, we have a very good relationship. I’m very happy and privileged that he has kept me on board.”

Elsewhere, former triple British Rally champion Keith Cronin will compete in next season’s Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship that begins with the Corrib Oil Galway International Rally in early February.

Cronin will use his TRIA-backed Citroen DS3 R5. He is unlikely to dovetail his Tarmac bid with an BRC campaign unless sponsorship is forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Monaghan’s Stephen Wright is planning to upgrade his Fiesta R5 for a tilt at the Tarmac title that will be confined to R5/S2000 type machinery. Former national champion Aaron MacHale has acquired the ex-Enda McCormack Skoda Fabia S2000 while Dundalk’s Brendan Cumiskey is the latest driver to switch to a Fiesta R5.

Antrim’s Desi Henry, who is planning to make the start in Galway, has sold his Skoda to Scottish ace Calum Duffy and hopes to purchase an R5 car.

Meanwhile, the Historic section of next season’s Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship will have Cork company, CKH Environmental, as an associate sponsor.

The Killarney and District Motor Club has still to make a decision on whether or not to apply to Motorsport Ireland to reschedule their Historic Rally. They are communicating with the governing body in relation to some issues before making a decision. They plan to update competitors over the next few days.

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