New Toyota Gazoo Racing signing Kris Meeke will be co-driven by Seb Marshall next season.
Meeke announced an amicable split with long-term co-driver Paul Nagle when his Toyota deal was revealed in October. Marshall immediately became favourite to replace Nagle, but the partnership has only now been confirmed.
Marshall’s move is the second major co-driver switch of the close season. Marko Salminen will replace Mikko Markkula alongside M-Sport Ford’s Teemu Suninen after working with Takamoto Katsuta in WRC 2 for the past two seasons.
The 30-year-old has made almost 50 WRC starts, most recently with Hayden Paddon at Hyundai Motorsport. Next season will be his first full championship campaign.
Meeke said he owed ‘a great debt of thanks’ to Nagle, with whom he shared five WRC wins at Citroën Racing, and looked forward to the fresh challenge in a Yaris World Rally Car.
“The priority is to build up that relationship between us in the car, of course, and that’ll start in competition terms in Monte Carlo. But we’ll have a fair bit of testing beneath us by the time we get to that point, and that will help,” he said.
The pair will begin testing for the season-opening Rallye Monte Carlo (24 - 27 January) late next week and Marshall is eager to start.
“I’ll be stepping into a seat with some big shoes to fill, but I’m hugely excited by the prospect of working with Kris and the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team,” he said.
Marshall and Paddon ended their alliance with second place at Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
“My time with him has unboubtedly been my most successful in the sport. It’s tough to call time on a partnership as strong as ours and it’s a decision I deliberated over at length. However, an opportunity arose which I felt I couldn’t ignore,” he added.
Uncertainty over Paddon’s Hyundai future is sure to have played a part in Marshall’s move. The Kiwi hopes to renew a part-time programme with the Korean manufacturer but no news has been forthcoming from the Alzenau-based squad.