The French team’s boss, Pierre Budar, added: “This wasn’t an easy decision to make because it affects a driver and a co-driver, but it's 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.”
Meeke's axing appears to have come to a surprise to the driver himself, who said that he was "looking forward to the next event in Sardinia" in a Facebook post made just minutes prior to the release of Citroën's announcement.
After scoring his inaugural WRC victory with Citroën in Argentina in 2015, Meeke was signed on a three-year deal ahead of the 2016 season. It was a big break for the Dungannon-born rally man; although he had enjoyed a long association with Citroën, he had waited a long time to land a full-time ride with the factory team.
The plan was for 2016 to be a building year with the outgoing DS3 World Rally Car ahead of a switch to the new C3 WRC at the start of 2017 – but Meeke was dropped by Citroën for one rally midway through the 2017 season after a spate of accidents. He bounced from that disappointment by winning in Spain near the end of the year.
This year he was expected to be a title contender, but Citroën’s C3 WRC has not proven to be a consistent match for M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta, Toyota’s Yaris or Hyundai’s i20 Coupé. The French is currently fourth in the manufacturers’ points standings and Meeke exits the team in sixth place in the drivers’ standings.
Citroën’s other entries for Sardinia, for Craig Breen/Scott Martin and Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen, are unaffected by the decision. A potential replacement for Meeke is nine-time title winner Sébastien Loeb, who competed for Citroën's works team at the French and Mexican rallies earlier this year and is already slated to make a further appearance in Spain later this season.
Opinion: it's little surprise Citroen has dropped Meeke, but it is a shame