“Meeke, WRC champ, is now not just a pipe dream”

Motor Sport News - - Round -

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.

MAY 25 2016

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