The departure of Citroen Racing World Rally Championship team principal Yves Matton has increased speculation as to the future of the French outfit in the WRC.
Matton, who takes up the role of the FIA’s new rally director, was central to the career of Irish driver Kris Meeke, who, along with Craig Breen, is in the final year of their current contracts with the French outfit.
Matton has seen Meeke rise through the Citroen ranks; the pair have known each other from Meeke’s time in Junior rallying. Then, when the Mini WRC drive collapsed for Meeke in 2001, Matton was responsible for his return to Citroen.
It may well be that Citroen will be replaced by Peugeot in next season’s WRC.
Matton will replace Jarmo Mahonen at the FIA’s rally department, with Pierre Budar taking over as Citroen Racing director from Monday, just days before the start of the rally season in Monte Carlo. While Meeke will contest all 13 events of the WRC, Breen will have 10 outings, missing three events, at which he will be replaced by nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb.
Meanwhile, the “HEROSPEC” Irish Rallysprint of Champions at Mondello Park this weekend hasn’t drawn the high-profile entry that was anticipated, even though the more than 70 competitors include two former Tarmac champions. Promoted as a “high-profile” event to replace the Galway International Rally, the event concludes on Sunday with a “Super-Special-style head-to-head knockout competition.
Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings (Subaru WRC) confirmed his entry in recent days and his principal opposition will come from Donegal’s Declan Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC), who will be hoping to start the season on a high ahead of both the Tarmac and National Championship.
The Mitsubishi WRC campaigned in the Irish Tarmac series a number of years ago will make an appearance in the hands of British driver Tristan Bailey. Other entries are Tyrone’s Frank Wray (Subaru WRC), Kerry’s Fergus O’Meara (Fiesta WRC) and Cashel’s Liam Ryan (Toyota Corolla WRC). The Modified entry includes Carlow’s David Condell, Cork’s Mark Dolphin and Colin Byrne, and Carrick-on-Suir’s James Coleman, all in Ford Escorts, along with Monaghan’s David Moffett (Toyota Starlet).
At tomorrow’s event, the Junior 1000 category of the Valvoline Irish Forest series will be launched. It will be underpinned by London-based firm, Michael O’Brien Plant Hire. Mallow-based Ears Motorsport Ireland will offer tyre (Kumho) prizes for each of the five rounds.
Former Irish National and Forest Rally champion Ray Breen, father of WRC star Craig, competes in the Willie Loughman Forest Rally in two weeks. After a 10-year absence, he will drive a hired Ford Fiesta R5 on the event, the first round of the Valvoline Irish Forest series. Another returnee is fellow Waterford driver Andrew Purcell, who has acquired a Fiesta R5 and intends to contest the first three rounds of the forest campaign. Meanwhile, Derry’s Desi Henry has sold the Skoda Fabia R5 he campaigned last year and is awaiting a new Skoda R5 for outings in the Irish Tarmac series. Eugene Donnelly’s return to the Irish Tarmac Championship on the West Cork Rally is reliant on the MRF tarmac tyre being available.
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