Kris Meeke has announced that he will make his competitive bow at next month's Roger Albert Clark Rally following “several months” of behind-the-scenes planning with his sponsors.
The former FIA World Rally Championship regular is joining forces with the Wales Motorsport Team for the biennial loose surface event, and is entering it in a newly built Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800.
Comprising 350 competitive miles spread across stages in England, Scotland and Wales, Meeke is to be navigated by Irishman Noel O'Sullivan for the meeting, which takes place from November 23rd to 27th.
Although Meeke is no stranger to night driving – a feature that sets the RAC apart from other UK stage rallies – he will have to rely on the pace notes provided by organisers as crews don't recce the route.
“For sure, it is going to be a huge challenge,” said Meeke, who is back in Portuguese Rally Championship action for the final time this weekend.
“I have a real thing from my childhood for old school rallies, and the way it used to be. To say I am excited to do it is an understatement as it has been on my bucket list for a long time – but the opportunity to do it has never presented itself before.
“A World Rally Championship rally is nearly 200 miles in three days, and it is intense – but this is five days, and it is 350 miles. That's what makes it special and the amount of driving in the dark is something special as well. It is going to be a huge challenge, but I am really excited by it. It is going to be awesome.”
“This is the culmination of several months of planning with Meirion Evans from Wales Motorsport,” he added. “Meirion does build a very, very good car, so it should be a strong package. I have driven an Escort a few times, not so much in recent years but back when I was involved with Colin McRae.”
Meeke's involvement comes just days after organisers confirmed that 21-year-old Oliver Solberg – the son of 2003 World Rally champion, Petter – is set to battle it out for overall honours in the family-run Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800. Other standout names include current BBC Top Gear presenter, Chris Harris.
Victory for Meeke would see him join an illustrious list that includes countryman Marty McCormack – the most successful driver with three RAC triumphs, M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson, five-time British Rally champion Jimmy McRae, and 1984 world Rally title winner Stig Blomqvist.