… FOUR CREWS READY TO TAKE ON THE CHALLENGE …
Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle
After completing a degree in mechanical engineering, Kris Meeke participated in his first rally in 2000. His bold style caught the attention of Colin McRae, who supported his progress. By his second full season Kris became British Junior Rally Champion, gaining the chance to enter the JWRC.
Spotted by Yves Matton, Kris was signed up by Citroën Sport to drive in the 2005 JWRC. Driving a C2 Super 1600, he began by winning Rallye Monte Carlo and finished the season third in the championship. Without a full programme after the 2006 season, he competed in one-off events. It was at that point he began working with Paul Nagle. The son of a co-driver, the Irishman already had plenty of experience, acquired since his competitive debut in 1997.
For the 2009 season, Kris was chosen by Team Peugeot UK to contest the IRC. In his Peugeot 207 S2000, he won four rallies to secure the title. In 2010 he defended his title, but had to settle for third place.
His performances paved the way for a seat with the new MINI team, at the time preparing to join the WRC. However, the programme was stopped at the end of 2011 and Kris found himself without a drive again. Thanks to Citroën Racing, he competed at Rally Finland and Rally Australia in 2013 in a works DS 3 WRC.
After showing once again that he had genuine pace, he was handed a seat in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team for 2014. In his first full season in the WRC, he managed to secure four podium finishes. Retained for 2015, he claimed his first win in Argentina and ended the season in the top five in the championship.
When Citroën Racing announced it would be returning as a works team to the WRC in 2017, Kris Meeke was the first driver to be named in its line-up. Tasked with conducting the majority of the development work on the Citroën C3 WRC, he also contested seven rallies with the Abu Dhabi Total WRT in 2016. Fast on all surfaces, winning in Portugal and Finland, Kris heads into the new season as a serious world title contender.
Kris Meeke in figures:
Date and place of birth: 2 July 1979 in Dungannon (Northern Ireland)
Competitive debut: 2000
First WRC rally: 2002 Wales GB Rally
Number of WRC starts: 73
Best result in the WRC: 1st (Argentina in 2015, Portugal and Finland in 2016)
Craig Breen/Scott Martin
After making his competitive debut in 2008 on the roads of his native Ireland and in Great Britain, Craig Breen’s career really took off in 2011. Competing in the WRC Academy, he managed to win the title on the final stage of Wales Rally GB.
Thanks to his Junior title, Craig earned a seat in a Fiesta S2000 for the 2012 season. The year began positively with a win in the S-WRC at Rallye Monte Carlo, but events then took a tragic turn. A freak accident at Rally Targa Florio (IRC) took the life of his co-driver and friend, Gareth Roberts.
Encouraged by the friends and family of ‘Jaffa’, Craig came through this difficult period and continued his season alongside co-driver Paul Nagle. He won three more rallies in the S-WRC and ended the year as champion.
Invited to join the Peugeot Rally Academy, Craig then contested the European Rally Championship.
He finished on the podium in 2013 in a 207 S2000 and again in 2014 in a 208 T16. 2014 also saw the beginning of his working relationship with Scott Martin. Following four full seasons in the WRC with Matthew Wilson and then one alongside Khalid Al Qassimi, Scott could see Craig’s talent and potential.
In 2015 the pair took on a two-pronged challenge, continuing in the 208 T16. Despite a number of mechanical issues, Craig managed to finish as runner-up in the ERC and ended eighth in WRC2.
His performances and tenacity earned him a place in the Abu Dhabi Total WRT to compete in six rallies in 2016. Eighth in Sweden and seventh in Poland, he moved up a gear as he claimed an impressive third place in Finland. His progress was rewarded by a works drive with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT for the 2017 season.
Craig Breen in figures:
Date and place of birth: 2 February 1990 in Slieverue (Ireland)
Competitive debut: 2008
First WRC rally: 2009 Rally de Portugal
Number of WRC starts: 37
Best result in the WRC: 3rd (Finland in 2016)
Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau
Stéphane Lefebvre cut his teeth in the promotional formulas of the French Rally Championship. Leading Junior in the 2012 “Volant 207”, he contested his first international rallies in the European Rally Championship the following year. In 2013, he finished fifth in the ERC’s “Two-wheel drive” category and topped the Junior standings of the 208 Rally Cup again.
Stéphane’s highlight moment was in the 2014 season, when he won the FIA Junior WRC, WRC3 and ERC Junior titles. The JWRC title was rewarded by a six-event programme in the following season’s WRC2, but Stéphane’s potential led to Citroën Racing adding other events to his programme.
Stéphane therefore contested thirteen rounds of the 2015 World Championship. After winning the WRC2 class at Rallye Monte Carlo, the rest of his season proved to be more difficult, but he continued to learn about rallying at world level in the DS 3 R5 and then the DS 3 RRC. He then competed in the final five rallies of the season in a DS 3 WRC. His maiden outing ended with him finishing in the points in Germany, before ending the season with eighth place at Wales Rally GB.
For 2016, Stéphane joined the Abu Dhabi Total WRT. He began working alongside co-driver Gabin Moreau, who had just completed two seasons in the ERC with Chris Ingram. In Monte Carlo, the season started with a fine fifth place finish.
Stéphane also showed he was improving in Portugal and Poland, but his season came to an abrupt halt in Germany. Competing outside of their Abu Dhabi Total WRT programme, Stéphane and Gabin were injured following a heavy crash.
Stéphane recovered in time to end the season at Wales Rally GB, where he finished ninth. He was joined by Gabin at the Rallye du Var, for a test outing before attacking the 2017 season with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT.
Stéphane Lefebvre in figures:
Date and place of birth: 16 March 1992 in Noeux-les-Mines (France)
Competitive debut: 2010
First WRC rally: 2013 Rallye de France
Number of WRC starts: 26
Best result in the WRC: 5th (Monte Carlo in 2016)
Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson
Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi’s first experiences in motorsport were behind the wheel of 4WD cars during rallies organised in the Emirati desert. His rallying career really began in 2002, when he completed his first full season in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC). He won the Group N title, and the United Arab Emirates Championship in the same year.
The following season, Sheikh Khalid added another three Group N wins to his record, enabling him to successfully defend his national title. However, the year ended on a sour note, with an injury keeping him out of action for several months. On his return to competition in 2004, he won the MERC title in a Subaru Impreza WRX, winning two rallies in Bahrain and Syria.
Between 2004 and 2006, Sheikh Khalid pursued his career in the MERC (runner-up in 2005 and third in 2006) whilst also competing in the P-WRC. He then began competing in the sport’s top flight category with the Ford Abu Dhabi WRT in the second half of the 2007 season. He competed in around 40 rallies with the team, driving a Fiesta WRC. Fifth place at the 2011 Rally Australia remains his best result.
After taking a break from rallying in 2012, he was heavily involved in establishing the partnership between Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Racing and Citroën Racing. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons saw him compete in a number of WRC events and the MERC. He has finished as runner-up in the Middle East Rally Championship on three occasions.
Sheikh Khalid has been working with co-driver Chris Patterson since 2014. A co-driver for 30 or so years, the experienced Briton has worked with the likes of Petter Solberg and Kris Meeke.
After winning the 2015 Dubai Rally, Sheikh Khalid decided to take a break from competing in the MERC. In 2016, he competed in four rounds of the WRC whilst also keeping a close eye on the performances of Kris Meeke, Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre in the Abu Dhabi Total WRT.
As well as continuing to compete in cross-country rallying – he is set to contest the 2017 Dakar Rally in a 2008 DKR – Sheikh Khalid will be taking part in a selection of WRC events next year in the Citroën C3 WRC.
Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi in figures:
Date and place of birth: 18 February, 1972 in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)
Competitive debut: 2001
First WRC rally: 2004 Acropolis Rally
Number of WRC starts: 65
Best result in the WRC: 5th (Australia in 2011)