17 Jan: Meeke’s new team colours

… The Car in Front is a Toyota – hopes Kris Meeke! …

British rally fans got their first chance to see Kris Meeke and Seb Marshall sporting their new colours at the Autosport International Show last week when Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT revealed their driver line-up for the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship. And what a line-up, with Kris joining Ott Tänak and Jari-Matti Latvala.

When the news was announced last October, the Northern Irishman said: “It’s a huge pleasure and honour for me to become a Toyota driver. I’d like to thank Akio Toyoda, Tommi Mäkinen and the entire Toyota team for their faith in me. Three years ago, we first discussed the possibility of me joining the team, and I’m so happy that it’s finally happened now.

“The performance of the Yaris WRC speaks for itself, but the team spirit here is incredible at every level, also with the Japanese culture of honour and respect. I can’t wait to get started.

“The very first championship that I won was actually when I was aged 16 and co-driving for my brother on our local road rally championship. We clinched that title in a Toyota Corolla, so for very many reasons, it feels incredibly good to be here. I can’t think of a better place to be.”

Ott Tänak will continue to drive the Toyota Yaris WRC next year alongside co-driver Martin Järveoja, after joining the team for the 2018 season, winning four events and ending up 3rd in the title race.

Jari-Matti Latvala will also retain his drive. The Finn and his co-driver Miikka Anttila have been a key part of the team since Toyota’s return to the WRC in Monte Carlo in January 2017. They scored the team’s first podium on that event, and the first victory just a few weeks later in Sweden. Latvala scored one victory and four podiums in 2018.

Tommi Mäkinen, Team Principal, said: “We are all very excited to have Kris joining us here. We know that he is very fast, but he also brings a lot of experience. His technical understanding is at a really high level and I believe he can provide new knowledge and ideas to help us in our aim to keep making the Yaris WRC better.

“I am also very pleased that Jari-Matti will continue to be part of our team. He has done some brilliant work for us and has recently been regularly on the podium, which has been very important. Together with Ott, who has proven that he is absolutely one of the fastest drivers right now, I think we have a very strong line-up, with three drivers who are all quick, experienced and can win rallies.”

At his first test with the new team last month Kris said: “It’s been a difficult few months for me, but I wasn’t that long away and I got that hunger back. I knew deep down I wanted to come back to drive a rally car and to have my first experience of the Yaris on these stages, it just gives me so much pleasure to drive a car again.”

“I have given my life to rally and rally has given me so much but certainly I didn’t feel it was time to stop. I still think I can achieve a lot more in the sport and hopefully with this new exciting venture we can achieve good things together.”

Meeke said team principal Tommi Mäkinen helped make the decision to sign an easy one.

“The fact that Tommi has been there, he’s done it, he’s one of the most successful drivers ever in the WRC with four back-to-back world titles, he knows what it takes from a driver’s point of view and when that guy is your boss it’s very easy to relate.

“The negotiations were very simple and there were maybe some options on the table, but I said if I wanted to come back, I wanted to come back in the proper way. For me there was no doubt where I wanted to be,” he added.

Kris Meeke:
Date of birth: 2 July 1979
Age: 39 years old
Nationality: British
Career highlights:
2005 3rd overall, FIA Junior WRC
2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion, 4 wins
2014 First WRC podium, Rallye Monte-Carlo
2015 First WRC win, Rally Argentina
2016 Wins Rally Portugal and Rally Finland
2017 Wins Rally Mexico and Rally Spain
WRC Statistics:
WRC starts 91, Victories 5, Podiums 12, Points scored 413, Stage Wins 77

13 Jan: Hugh Chambers – Part 3

… Continued from Part 2 …

In this third part of the interview we moved on from future plans and strategies to a variety of more general topics …

Q: It’s not just new competitors we need, we need more Scrutineers and Marshals, and organisers are getting fewer in number (and getting older) and we need to address that, as well as lowering the cost barrier for newcomers coming into the sport.

I think that’s whether it’s competitors, or officials or marshals, we need to be going to where the young people are and I think frankly, probably people of our sort of age are not the right people to talk to the people who are the kids! We need to, and we’ve got some great young people working at Motorsport UK. I can name half a dozen of them that immediately spring to mind who are the right side of 30 and have got a vibrant excited attitude towards motor sport.

Those are the people we need to reach out to, from schools to universities. Also, getting out to local motor clubs and attracting young people.

I actually think that motor sport engineering courses in this country are an extremely fertile area for us to forge a much closer partnership with those academic institutions. There are hundreds and hundreds of students each year now doing motorsport engineering degrees and yet there is no formal linkage between those courses and Motorsport UK. I’m not just talking about endorsement or ratification, I’m talking why wouldn’t you have everybody that’s on a motorsport engineering course, or similar, has to be a marshal at least once a year, why wouldn’t you make them take a base level scrutineer’s course? There’s lots of things that I’m sure we can do working with the educational establishments to start to feed people into the sport, but to make it work, we’ve got to reduce those barriers to entry. We’ve got to reduce bureaucracy, reduce the form filling and make it more transparent. I think the problem with bureaucracy is that it can lead to a lack of transparency because people like to hide behind ‘the system’ – “That’s the way it is done, if you don’t like it, go and play somewhere else”.

David and myself work on a transparent basis – if you can’t tell the world about it, it probably is not right. We’ve got to be able to have everything set out that everybody knows the way it works, and I think Scrutineering is in that particular area. John Ryan and his team do a particularly fantastic job but I think Scrutineering overall is a fairly loveless task because they’ve got a hell of a job to do depending on the category of racing. It’s a hell of a responsibility in the time they have got to evaluate a vehicle, I think it’s extremely difficult.

Q: Scottish Motor Sports has spent a lot of time and effort time visiting universities and colleges to attract students, what other ways can we reach, entice and encourage youngsters.

The ‘Rallye Jeune’ programme in France is something we are looking at very carefully. I had no idea until recently that Sebastien Ogier and Sebastien Loeb both came out of the Rallye Jeune programme which is extraordinary. It is actually based on an ‘autotest’ format in car parks and I think that’s a fantastic way to get started.

Q: One make championships and formulae provide a good introduction to motor sport but how do we control costs? The Peugeot 205 Challenge was one of the best with a good supply of affordable cars and spare parts, but modern cars have a shorter production life and as each new model is introduced it has an impact on previous model performance and the availability of parts. Richard Burns and Louise Aitken-Walker came through the 205 programme and so to a lesser extent did Colin McRae.

In actual fact I’ve just come out of a technical meeting with manufacturers, about single seaters, and we were having exactly that same conversation about that. That also has to be our responsibility to manage, whether it’s to do with sporting regulations or technical regulations, to contain costs. Cost is the biggest enemy of all of this and but we need to make it sensible otherwise the thing is going to shrink and shrink, and you’re going to end up with tiny grids at circuit racing or tiny fields in rallies if you don’t make it accessible and fair. It’s just obvious. It’s in all our interests to control it.

We’re looking at it very closely. Obviously in Wales you’ve got ‘Rally4Wales’ in terms of the contracted party and we’ve got a meeting with them this afternoon. It’s a massively important thing for us to figure out a way through this because it’s going to kill forest stage rallying unless we get it right. The reality is, to quote one of David’s speech comments is that we only use around 5% of the actual forestry routes in this country – if that, and I’m sure it’s even less than that. It’s something we’ve really got to look at very, very carefully.

There’s a lot to do, he added … and then looked at his watch and realised we had over-run our time. Seriously over-run!

[Interview – Part 1]
[Interview – Part 2]

13 Jan: Hugh Chambers – Part 2

… Continued from Part 1 … Q: It’s not only the licence holders we’re losing, but the new ones we are getting are older generation competitors interested in Historic sport, and we are not attracting enough newcomers, new blood, youngsters. Correct, you’re absolutely right, it’s in the demographics, and karting […] Read more »

13 Jan: Hugh Chambers – Part 1

… Hugh Chambers, Chief Executive, Motorsport UK … Q: What made you jump ship from World Sailing (and no, he didn’t think the joke was that funny either, but he had the grace to smile!) to join the Motor Sports Association? I had ten years working with David (Richards) at […] Read more »

12 Jan: M-Sport’s new livery

… M-SPORT FORD REVEAL 2019 LIVERY AT AUTOSPORT INTERNATIONAL … M-Sport Ford World Rally Team has revealed a striking new livery ahead of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship. The eye-catching EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC will be entrusted to Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen throughout the 14-round season and displayed […] Read more »

11 Jan: New Sponsor for SRC

… KNC Groundworks to back 2019 Scottish Rally Championship … Leading Scottish groundwork contractors KNC Groundworks Ltd have become the official title sponsor of the Motorsport UK Scottish Rally Championship (SRC) for the 2019 season. KNC Groundworks Ltd, based in Aberdeenshire, was first established in 2012 and specialises in repairing, […] Read more »