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WRC: Kris Meeke ready for ‘fresh start’ in 2019 with Toyota

Kris Meeke will run with the number five for the 2019 World Rally Championship, a number his daughter selected for himKris Meeke says he is “excited to get going” ahead of the 2019 World Rally Championship with Toyota.The Northern Irishman, 39, was handed a rallying lifeline by Tommi Makinen’s outfit after being dropped from Citroen’s line-up midway through 2018.

Meeke will also have new co-driver in Seb Marshall for 2019 after ending his 11-year partnership with Paul Nagle.

He will get his first competitive action with Toyota at Rally Monte Carlo at the end of January.

The five-time rally winner will link up with Ott Tanak and Jari-Matti Latvala, in what has been described as a World Rally ‘super team.’

“I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to be back again,” said Meeke, “I’ve two fearsome team-mates with some incredible speed. The car is really capable and is working in nearly all conditions so it’s a nice prospect.

“The team is 100% committed, and to have Tommi Makinen’s influence is pretty special. He understands the sport better than anybody from a drivers’ point of view.

“For me it’s pretty something pretty special working with Tommi. I grew up watching that era so he was a childhood hero as well. We all have a job to do and I’m excited to get working with this new team.”

Four-time WRC champion Makinen manages the Toyota team and Meeke says he quickly “bonded” with the Finnish great.

Kris Meeke in action for Citroen
Meeke’s WRC career looked to be over after he was dropped by Citroen after Rally Portugal following a series of accidents and non-finishes.

After stating his last 18 months with Citroen were an unhappy period, Meeke says that enjoyment will be key if he is to hit top form and mount a title challenge.

“I’m excited to get going. Its been eight or nine months away, which has been enough time to recuperate and get back on track so I’m ready to go for Monte Carlo,” Meeke believes.

“If I have something beneath me then I feel comfortable and confident in we can do something good. That’s my sole objective.

“We wouldn’t have that anticipation if we knew what was going to happen. That’s the enjoyment of sport, that no one knows what will happen or what’s around the corner, so we just want to get up and running and see how we go.”

It will take some time to get used to having a different navigator in the co-driver’s seat, with Meeke ending an 11-year relationship with Nagle to ensure it was a full reset on his WRC return.

“As I’ve said before, I owe a big thanks to Paul,” says Meeke, who claimed his five WRC wins with Nagle beside him, “I’ve spent more time with Paul than I have with my wife over that time. It wasn’t an easy decision to make or to handle but I knew if I got my opportunity again, I would want a fresh start.”

“I had my eye on Seb since the middle of last season and I was able to team up up with him. Rallying is one of those sports where it is very much a team game.

“It’s such an incredible dynamic by driver and co-driver inside the car, it’s such an important relationship.

“We’ve done a couple of tests, been out practicing and made some notes. He’s really clever, motivated and switched on. I just want to get started now and he’ll do a good job.

Source: BBC Sports