Being a professional racing driver is awesome. You drive fast cars, you’re paid loads, your team fires you in an announcement on Twitter…
Yes, spare a thought for British racing driver Kris Meeke this weekend. He seems to have found out that his services as a driver are no longer required at the same time as everyone else.
Late on Thursday, Meeke made a Facebook post reflecting on his accident at Rally Portugal and looking forward to Sardinia. Barely minutes later, the official Citroen Racing Twitter account posted this:
Due to an excessively high number of crashes, some of which were particularly heavy, Citroën Racing WRT has decided to terminate the participation of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in the 2018 WRC. #WRC
— Citroën Racing (@CitroenRacing) May 24, 2018
Meeke has been driving for the Citroen World Rally Championship team since 2013. The pairing has had a very mixed bag of results in that time. On the one hand Meeke has scored five outright wins and won the fastest ever rally event at 126.6km/h (78.7mph). On the other, he’s had several absolutely huge accidents. It’s part and parcel of being a rally driver, but Meeke’s prangs have been major events.
In 2017, after crashing twice at Monaco, clipping a spectator’s car at Mexico (while winning the rally, as you can see above) and rolling the C3 four times in three races, Citroen opted to “rest” him for a round. He returned with a middling performance at Finland and then crashed out again at the first stage in Germany. Although he did then go on to win the next round at Catalunya.
Citroen renewed his contract for 2018, and he was due to be the only driver to compete in all rounds for the team. Two more crashes soon followed. The first came in Sweden as Toyota driver Ott Tanak collided with his immobile Citroen after Meeke had crashed into a snowbank. The second, in Portugal, was a solo off which again obliterated the C3’s chassis. Fortunately both Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle were unharmed.
It’s these accidents that seem to have spurred Citroen into action. The team describes them as “particularly heavy and could have had serious consequences with regard to the crew’s safety”, adding that “the risks involved were unjustified by the sporting stakes at play”.
Pierre Budar, director of Citroen Racing said:
“This wasn’t an easy decision to make because it affects a driver and a co-driver, but it is largely founded on safety issues which come under my preoccupations as Team Principal. We have consequently chosen to make this decision as a preventive measure.”
While you can sort of see Citroen’s point, it’s a bit of a harsh way to treat any driver, never mind one who’s taken every victory for the team in the last four seasons. Hopefully Meeke can find his way back to the sport before too long.
Images via wrc.com.