Kris Meeke is back behind the wheel of a development rally car again, driving Škoda’s Fabia R5 Evo in Italy this week.
Meeke will drive the car for two days this week, completing his running in the Sanremo area of northern Italy on Wednesday.
The team offered no official comment on the five-time world rally winner’s presence in the car.
Meeke was unavailable when DirtFish contacted him on Tuesday.
DirtFish understands the test was centered on tire development for Michelin. The French firm was off the pace at the recent European Rally Championship opener, Rally di Roma, with Škoda driver Filip Mareš’ Fabia the top-placed Michelin runner in eight place – more than two minutes down on Alexey Lukyanuk’s Pirelli-shod Citroën.
Photographer Julien Perez, present on the Colle Oggia stage today, told DirtFish: “Kris drove from nine in the morning until lunchtime and then all afternoon. He was doing three runs at the stage every 30 minutes – they did a lot of running and a lot of work with Michelin.”
Meeke and co-driver Seb Marshall dominated February’s mixed surface Legends Boucles à Bastogne event in Belgium in a Ford Escort RS1800.
They had been expected to make their return to four-wheel machinery in a Mazda 2 at New Zealand’s International Rally of Whangarei. The North Island event was subsequently canceled due to coronavirus.
Škoda Motorsport has history of landing British rallying legends to its cars, with Meeke’s mentor Colin McRae taking the service park by surprise when he agreed to drive a Fabia WRC 05 in Wales and Australia in 2005.
Škoda Motorsport has stepped down its full factory presence this year, instead supporting a semi-works programme with Oliver Solberg. The 18-year-old drove the factory Fabia for the first time in Sweden this year and lost a debut WRC3 podium to a final-stage puncture.
The remainder of Solberg’s 2020 program with the Czech manufacturer has yet to be communicated.
Rally Estonia – where he dominated the R5 class and finished seventh overall in his Volkswagen Polo R5 last year – was one possibility, but restrictions in movement between the Czech Republic and Estonia still prohibit team members from attending the Tartu-based event.