Kris Meeke who was dropped by Toyota Gazoo Racing for 2020 will make his rally comeback with an entry in the New Zealand Rally Championship.
Meeke and co-driver Sebastian Marshall are entering in the International Rally of Whangarei which is set to run 8 to 10 May with a Mazda 2 AP4 built by Andrew Hawkeswood and Force Motorsports.
The team has enjoyed many strong results with the Mazda 2 AP4, including the 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship title and finishing runner up in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship last season.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed about, driving a rally car in New Zealand and through all my exploits in the WRC over the years, I was never involved in the series when Rally New Zealand was in the championship for one reason or another,” Meeke said.
“I grew up with the images of these famous stages in New Zealand with Juha Kankkunen, Colin McRae and Richard Burns and I always wanted to do it. So when I had some contact with Andrew and he made a proposal for me to get an opportunity to drive on these roads, for me it was certainly a box I wanted to tick.“
“Obviously we all know of Hayden Paddon and his exploits, certainly he’s been a top line WRC driver for a period of time. I want to go and have fun, that’s number one priority, I want to enjoy myself and experience the roads, I have no expectation to try and beat Hayden but certainly if anyone knows me by now, I go and give any challenge 100% and see where we end up.”
The competition is decided on roads from the country’s WRC rounds from the 90s and 00s.
Meeke will also be competing against his former WRC rival Hayden Paddon, among others, who is in a Hyundai i20 Ap4 + developed by his own family team, Paddon Rallysport.
“To have a driver like Kris come to contest the International Rally of Whangarei is a huge coup for the event but also shows the international draw of the world-famous roads the event has access to,” Willard Martin, NZRC Chairman, said.
“We look forward to seeing Kris line up against not only the top drivers New Zealand has to offer, but also those from the Asia-Pacific region.”