Bri­ton stuns with pace in Monte Carlo,

Motor Sport News - - In This Issue - By David Evans

Kris Meeke would have taken last week’s Monte Carlo Rally to the wire if it hadn’t been for the gear­box prob­lem aboard his DS 3 WRC, ac­cord­ing to Citroen team prin­ci­pal Yves Mat­ton.

Meeke, who was vy­ing to be­come the first Bri­tish driver since Vic El­ford in 1968 to win in the French Alps, re­tired from the lead fight af­ter a rock tore the sump guard off the bot­tom of his car and punched a hole in the gear­box. Lead­ing at the end of the first day and through parts of Fri­day, Meeke was still chas­ing Se­bastien Ogier when he was forced out af­ter SS12.

Mat­ton pointed to Meeke’s tyre op­tion for Sis­teron as the fi­nal Satur­day stage and said that would have helped cut the deficit to Ogier ahead of Sun­day’s fi­nale.

“Kris was tak­ing the supersoft tyre in Sis­teron,” Mat­ton told Mo­tor­sport News. “We saw how quick Stephane [Lefebvre, Meeke’s team-mate who was fourth fastest] was on th­ese tyres. I think Kris would have come through and brought the gap to Ogier down to about 10 or 15 sec­onds.

“For sure, it would still have been dif­fi­cult, but he would have been right in the fight to the fin­ish. He would have brought more pres­sure to Se­bastien and then who knows what can hap­pen?”

Mat­ton added that Meeke was blame­less for the in­ci­dent: “He was very un­lucky. If he had cut the cor­ner maybe five cen­time­tres more, then it might have been OK. But this is all hy­po­thet­i­cal now.”

Meeke ad­mit­ted he was shocked by the im­pact, say­ing: “That sump guard is held in place by six eight-mil­lime­tre bolts. It takes a hell of a force to move those.

“As well as that, the im­pact punched a hole the size of your fist in the side of the gear­box. I’ve never seen any­thing like that be­fore, when you had a look, you could ac­tu­ally see the cogs in­side the gear­box. It was a big im­pact and we felt it in­side the car, but it was in a cut that ev­ery­body was tak­ing.”

Meeke ex­plained the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the im­pact, adding: “We got some warn­ings straight away and the power went. The in­ter­cooler pipe had been pulled off and straight away I could smell gear­box oil. It was pretty clear we were go­ing to be stop­ping.”

Ogier was the first to com­mis­er­ate with his ri­val.

“When I heard some­thing about him hit­ting the rock, I said im­me­di­ately: ‘It’s there.’ I knew,” said the Volk­swa­gen driver. “I took the cut, ev­ery­body took this cut – you had to take this cut. On the first round, I

passed over it and the rock touched the bot­tom of my car. Maybe it’s dif­fer­ent if you pass over the middle of the car, I don’t know. On the se­cond pass, I took it a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent and it didn’t touch. But it’s un­lucky.”

Ogier was also quick to praise his ri­val’s pace on only his third Monte Carlo Rally in a World Rally Car.

“I feel sorry for Kris,” said Ogier. “He did a great job this week­end, he drove very fast and we both found a good rhythm. This week­end was def­i­nitely a strong per­for­mance for Kris, I don’t know if it was his best one or not, but def­i­nitely it was a strong per­for­mance.”

Meeke was just 26 sec­onds off the lead, hav­ing scored an­other fastest time on the test im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing the 10-mile St Leger les Melezes-la Batie-neuve test where his event ended.

“We were go­ing well on this rally,” said Meeke. “Whether or not we could have taken the fight to Seb, we’ll never know – it’s fair to say he still looked to have a bit more. And, let’s not for­get, the fi­nal day was al­ways a bit more of a Tar­mac rally and try­ing to take that time out of him in those con­di­tions would have been hard. Hav­ing said all of that, when you’re on the Monte and you’re 26 sec­onds off the lead, then you’re al­ways go­ing to be in with a shout.”

Much was made dur­ing the last week of Meeke’s up­turn in con­fi­dence, with ques­tions asked over whether that was linked to his new three-year deal.

Meeke said: “I don’t know about that, but it does feel a bit dif­fer­ent to how it was at times last year. I felt this kind of con­fi­dence on Rally GB last year and I think this is an ex­ten­sion of that.

“It’s dif­fer­ent to ear­lier, to places like Ar­gentina, where we took the win. OK, on the first day we drove in Ar­gentina, but af­ter that it was all a bit nervy. It wasn’t like that on this one, this time we were more re­laxed and we were able to keep the speed and I could keep my head.”

Meeke ad­mit­ted there was a con­cern of lack of match fit­ness. Once he’s through next month’s Rally Swe­den, he’s not com­pet­ing for the next two ral­lies. “Sure we will miss Mex­ico and Ar­gentina,” he said, “and maybe that will cost some match fit­ness, but at the same time we’re go­ing to be in the [2017] car for so long that we will be get­ting some se­ri­ous mileage. This will make up for it.”

The Citroen driver added that his time with the French team was also pay­ing div­i­dends.

“This is my third time in Monte with this car,” said Meeke. “This is a rally which is all about ex­pe­ri­ence, so that’s go­ing to help. And, don’t for­get, the Monte has al­ways been a strong event for this car.”

Meeke is hop­ing to carry his strong pace into the next round in Swe­den next month.

“I have ex­pe­ri­ence of Swe­den now as well,” he said. “I’ve set some fastest times on that rally. I’ve got good con­fi­dence and I’m feel­ing happy in the car, so now let’s see what can hap­pen. There’s no ques­tion that we will be push­ing, it’s just a ques­tion of whether it will all come to­gether.” Full Monte Carlo re­port, p20

Meeke flew on early stages of Monte Carlo

Mat­ton: happy with Meeke

Se­bastien Ogier en­joyed the com­pe­ti­tion with Meeke Capito (l) and Wil­son

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