Five-time World Rally winner Kris Meeke will compete in Nitro Rallycross with XITE Energy Racing this season, deputizing for Jenson Button at three of the upcoming season’s 10 rounds.
Meeke, who tested Nitro RX’s FC1-X electric car at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya last month and at Circuit de Calafat last week, will join Oliver Bennett’s team for his first fully-electric motorsport foray.
“I’m really excited to join XITE Energy Racing,” said Meeke. “When Oli contacted me, I was really interested in every aspect: the team, the car and the championship. When I tried the car, OK the conditions weren’t perfect and it was very wet, but you could immediately see the huge potential not only with the car, but with the whole series that Nitro Rallycross is creating.
“Rallycross is a category of motorsport that suits electrification perfectly: it’s short, sharp racing with an incredible amount of power available instantaneously. If it’s managed well, this can certainly be a bright future and it’s really nice to be part of that with Oli and the XITE Energy Racing Team.”
Meeke will fill in at the Lydden Hill curtain-raiser, as well as round two in Sweden and the seventh event in Saudi Arabia, with prior contractual obligations preventing Button from contesting the full slate of events. The 2009 Formula 1 world champion will make his debut at round three in Finland, before contesting all of the North American rounds of the 2022-23 campaign.
“I can’t do all of them because I have other engagements, which I can’t get out of, which is a shame,” Button explained to DirtFish. “But Lydden is the one I’d love to do because it’d be the easiest one for me, because I’ve driven there. It’s also in the UK, which would have been awesome, but I can’t do it. So it’s so frustrating.
“And then we go to the ones in America and they’re all on dirt. But I’m up for a challenge. And I’m just excited to see who else is racing.”
Though XITE will miss its initial star signing at three rounds, team driver-owner Bennett is hopeful that Meeke’s addition to its roster would help fine-tune its new-for-2022 FC1-X machines for its less off-road experienced driver pairing.
“Having another legend from the very top of world motorsport joining the team is really exciting,” said Bennett, who will run every round. “Kris brings a wealth of experience from his time in rallying, winning in the WRC and, of course, developing some of the world’s fastest rally cars.
“That experience will be invaluable at the first few events, he’s going to really help give Jenson and I a good car from the second or third round onwards. This year is going to be amazing!”