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Kris Meeke to Toyota for 2019 World Rally Championship return

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Kris Meeke has completed a deal to make a sensational return to the World Rally Championship with Toyota for the 2019 season.

Toyota is set to announce next week that the ex-Citroen driver will partner Ott Tanak and Jari-Matti Latvala, as mooted by Autosport last month.

Official news of Meeke’s WRC return will follow the announcement of Esapekka Lappi’s move from Toyota to Citroen, which is expected on October 18.

Autosport’s sources confirmed Meeke agreed terms with Toyota last week.

Toyota team principal Tommi Makinen remained tight-lipped about precise details of his 2019 line-up, but admitted Meeke and Craig Breen were in the picture.

“They both have potential,” he said. “And realistically we are not thinking about not too many options if we want to fight for the [2019] manufacturers’ championship.

“We are preparing for possible changes [in the team]. We’re investigating potential [alternatives] and we have good chances.

“There’s nothing to say at the moment. We are working with Japan on this subject now.”

Tanak said he could see the benefit of bringing Meeke in as a replacement for Lappi.

“It’s not my choice, it’s not my decision, but Kris is a fast driver – we all know that,” Tanak told Autosport.

“Overall I think it would be a strong line-up.”

Meeke, who was dropped by Citroen in May, was in America last week and has remained silent on his future.

He will be back in a rally car this week, when he tackles the RallyLegend event in San Marino, sharing a Ford Fiesta RS WRC with Derek Ringer – who co-drive Meeke’s mentor Colin McRae to the 1995 title.

Though Meeke’s Citroen stint ended badly, the five-time WRC rally winner’s successes with the team included becoming the first Briton to win Rally Finland in 2016.

An Autosport source added: “Meeke’s deal is done. We know he is coming to Finland [where Makinen’s Toyota team is based].

“It’s an exciting time for Toyota – to have three drivers so fast and all of them capable of the rally win on any event.

“We have seen Meeke’s speed on any surface, he dominated in Corsica and he wins in Finland – this is special for Finnish people, it is showing what he is capable of and it makes the team warm to him.”

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