Matton firm on Meeke
Citroën Racing boss Yves Matton has stood by his decision to axe lead driver Kris Meeke from last weekend’s Orlen 74th Rally Poland.
Matton controversially replaced Meeke with Andreas Mikkelsen after a troubled year for the Ulsterman culminated with accidents in consecutive rounds in Argentina, Portugal and Italy.
Mikkelsen finished ninth in Poland, after claiming eighth three weeks previously at Rally Italia Sardegna, when Stéphane Lefebvre was dropped to allow the Norwegian to debut with the French squad.
“I honestly believe that Kris needed a break,” said Matton. “The aim is very simple - for Kris to come back in better form than ever, so that we can win together. For the time being, no one can say with any certainty whether we made the right or wrong call.
“But we couldn’t keep doing nothing. We had to take action to end this run of results and I take full responsibility for this decision.”
Meeke, who has not commented on the decision, returns to the line-up at Neste Rally Finland (27 - 30 July), which he won 12 months ago. He will partner Craig Breen and Khalid Al Qassimi, while Mikkelsen will return for the following encounter in Germany.
Matton denied Meeke was being held solely responsible for the team’s poor run with its new C3 World Rally Car. Citroën is last in the manufacturers’ standings, 142 points adrift of leaders M-Sport World Rally Team.
“We never said that. It is worth remembering, however, that after each test session, the drivers said they were very happy with the handling of the car. But they were unable to find the same feeling on rallies’ conditions,” he said.
“That means that some of the directions taken during development of the C3 WRC were not fit for purpose. Once we had taken the step back we needed to take, I asked the technical team to work on some upgrades that would provide the car with greater versatility.
“There have been a number of changes: upgrades to the suspension at Rally Sweden, upgrades to the transmission in Poland and others will follow over the coming months.”
Matton said attentions were already turning to next year
“The priority now is to prepare for 2018. Some of the upgrades will need several months of development work and they won’t be ready to be introduced until the start of next season. That doesn’t mean that we won't win any more events in 2017,” he explained.
Fresh challenges await in Australia
All new stages for Friday's leg
Suninen aiming high
Finnish rising star hungry for more progress
Poland debrief: part 2
We look back at last weekend’s encounter