COLIN CLARK A
“Meeke, WRC champ, is now not just a pipe dream”
very strange thing happened in Portugal. it wasn’t that we had our fist British winner here for nearly 20 years. it wasn’t that we had a man from Northern Ireland standing on the podium in Portugal for the first time. it wasn’t even that for the first time since making an all-conquering return to the championship three and a half years ago, VW has gone two events without a win.
No, it was stranger than all those things. for the first time ever, I started to believe Kris Meeke.
Now I know that sounds harsh and it’s not that I’m questioning the man from Dungannon’s honesty, he really is one of the most honest, straightforward blokes you could hope to meet. but I just never believed his utterings that he could, given equal machinery, beat Sebastian Ogier and rule the world of rallying.
Yes we know he has the pace. but there has always been a question mark about his ability to stitch together all of the intricate fineries needed to make a great driver a champion. somehow, you just always knew that before the end of an event that showed great promise there would be a mistake, a rock or some kind of mechanical failure. and it has to be said, the rocks and the mechanical issues were in the minority, mistakes were Meeke’s speciality.
But forget all that tosh and turbulence and step forward the 2016 version of Kris Meeke. even before the event started there was something about Meeke that looked and felt different. He was carrying himself with an air of quiet self-belief. he physically looked imposing. If he’d been getting into the ring to fight for a middleweight championship he wouldn’t have looked out of place. gone was the slightly arrogant swagger, replaced by a statesmanship-like bearing that sits comfortably on those ridiculously broad shoulders.
Meeke is at home with the Citroen team. he is the team leader the entire operation is fully behind. Citroen’s belief in Meeke seems to have imparted a new sense of belonging that has seen the boy grow into a man and, more importantly, a genuine title contender.
The manner of Meeke’s win in Portugal was truly impressive. to build a lead of over a minute in seven gravel stages, no matter what the conditions, is something we don’t often see. to then consolidate that lead and drive faultlessly to claim the win is the stuff of champions.
So when Meeke says he can beat Ogier, when he says he has a shot at the drivers’ championship next year, when he says the bad days are well and truly behind him, don’t ever doubt him. british rally fans, after too many years of waiting, the time to get excited is near.
Kris Meeke, WRC champion, is no longer a fanciful pipe dream, it’s a very real possibility.