2 JULY 25 2012 motorsport-news.co.uk
IN THIS ISSUE
THE VOICE OF BRITISH MOTORSPORT ISSUE JA2831
“There’s nobody faster than us right now”
P8 Jenson Button says McLaren’s upgrades paid off
FIA GT1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TO FINISH
SRO opts to ditch struggling GT1 and GT3 series
MODERN MACHINERY SET TO TACKLE SAFARI
Famed African event close to a return to the calendar
INSIDE WORLD RALLYING’S MOST
VW’s new Polo hits the stages, but is it any good?
Historic race and rally news
Profile: Jake Dennis
Insight:Volkswagen PoloWRC 24 Silverstone Classic report 26 Racing reports 27 IRC report:Romania 30 Rally reports 31 SUBSCRIBETOMOTORSPORTNEWS 32 Karting round-up 33 Sporting Scene round-up 34 Letters/Comment/What’s On 36 Wanted:Lots and lots of Olympic gold medals for Team GB please...
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EXCLUSIVE: Mini WRC refugee Meeke
ByDavid Evans Kris Meeke is being lined up by Skoda for either a competition or development role in 2013, despite speculation the Czech Republic manufacturer will quit the Intercontinental Rally Challenge next season. Meeke refused to comment on a three-hour meeting he had with Skoda Auto team principal Michal Hrabánek at this year’s Circuit of Ireland, but the discussions were centred on putting him in a Skoda Fabia S2000 for next season – and in a development role for the firm’s new Fabia R5 car. Having dominated the IRC for the last two seasons, there is strong speculation that Skoda will leave the series in 2013 and focus its attentions on developing the new rally car through next year before a return to the sport in 2014. Whether it remains in the IRC or not, there is strong interest in Meeke joining the firm in either role. While the R5 Fabia would retain similar suspension and running gear to the current Super 2000 car, it would be the first turbocharged rally car from the Czech team since the Fabia WRC.
Free to roam Meeke has admitted toMotorsport Newsfor the first time that he is now a free agent, after agreeing an early end to the original Prodrive contract, which would have tied him to the Mini John Cooper WRC team until the end of next season.
“I’m not under contract with Prodrive anymore,” said Meeke. “I still have a very good relationship with Mini, but the contract is over nowwith [Prodrive]. It’s pretty tough, but it didn’t work out.” Meeke lost his seat this season after budget cuts meant Prodrive was unable to field a second Mini alongside the John Cooper Works WRCof Dani Sordo. Asked about the potential for him coming back to the IRC, Meeke replied: “I’m not going to go into any specifics, but it’s fair to say that I’m looking to get things back on track for next season. I’ve been offered a few one-off drives [in the IRC andWRC], but I have avoided those.
“There’s a danger that you could get forgotten about, but I believe there’s a bigger danger of taking these one-offs and not getting the result that works for you. I am talking to people about next season, as many people as possible. I’m looking forward to working with a team which matches the commitment I have always delivered. I have to be patient, I’ve been off the radar a bit this year, but I’m determined to be back next season.” Having spent time developing Citroën’s junior category and factory World Rally Cars before he began working on the Mini, Meeke said hewould be happy to return to work in the development of a new car, saying: “I’ve worked in the development of a lot of rally cars in the last few years and I firmly believe I’ve got a lot to offer in that department in the future.”
Skoda UK links Meeke is being linked to Skoda UKMotorsport for two obvious reasons, firstly because he is British and secondly because Skoda UK’s current driver Andreas Mikkelsen is expected to shift to the WRCwithVolkswagen next season. While the marriage of Meeke and the Milton Keynesbased distributor might make complete sense, it’s also perfectly possible that he would join the factory team alongside, or in place of, either of the current drivers Juho Hänninen and Jan Kopecký. A spokesman from Skoda Auto denied the contact with Meeke, but confirmed budgets and the possible continuation of the IRC programme into next season was under discussion.
Skoda UK’s Cathie Sleigh said a decision onwhether the team, which ran Mikkelsen to the drivers’ title last season, would remain in the IRC would be taken in September or October.
“We’d like to stay in the IRC,” said Sleigh. “It delivers real value for us and we get a lot out of competing there. But it’s too soon to say what wewill be doing next year and it’s too soon to talk about Andreas’s future as well.” Meeke’s promotional ability was highlighted when he drove for Peugeot UK, winning the 2009 title while playing a role in the firm’s television advertising campaign.
It is possible that Skoda UK Motorsport could remain in the IRC without the factory team.
Mikkelsen’s IRC exit One reason Meeke is being courted by Skoda is that reigning IRC champion – and winner of last weekend’s Sibiu Rally round – Mikkelsen is poised to form part of Volkswagen Motorsport’s World Rally Championship assault next season. VWmarketing manager Stefan Moser admitted the Norwegian was the German firm’s preferred option if, or when, it runs a third Polo RWRCnextyear. Moser toldMNlast week: “We made the decision that Andreas is the number one driver [in the juniors] for the third seat. That is the plan [to runMikkelsen], but we have to wait for the decision from the FIA [on the third driver].” Mikkelsen wasn’t ready to confirm his VWdeal for 2013, saying: “Nothing is certain for next year. I have a good relationship with Skoda UK Motorsport this year and winning the IRC with them is mymain focus. It’s no secret that next year I want to move into the world championship because I want to be world champion one day but nothing is for sure. I have a programme this year with Volkswagen and if I do well then there are some possibilities.” Mikkelsen did add that Meeke would be ideally placed to take his place with Skoda if he did move.
“There’s no doubting that Kris is a great, great driver,” said Mikkelsen, “and if the seat was available, then I can’t think that there is anybody better to take it than Kris. We’ve seen in the past how competitive he is, but, like I said, nothing is sure.”
“T her e’ s a d ang er I’ ve been fo rg otten” Kr is Meek e
Skoda UK is ev aluating another season in the IRC