MEEKE PUSHES FOR RALLY GB OUTING
Briton may not be part of Citroen’s three-car GB entry
Kris Meeke is pushing the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team to give him a car for this year’s Wales Rally GB.
While there will be three DS 3 WRCS in Wales in October, Meeke is not believed to be down to drive one of them. He has significant experience of the event and the thinking within the French squad is to give the opportunity to Craig Breen and Stephane Lefebvre with a third car likely for Khalid Al-qassimi.
Meeke finished second to Sebastien Ogier on last year’s Wales Rally GB, his best finish on his home round.
The Abu Dhabi team will compete in China and Corsica, with Meeke expected to be driving both of those events. The Northern Irishman is concerned at the potential gap from Corsica to the season-opener in Monte Carlo.
“Of course I want to go to Rally GB,” said Meeke. “Number one, it’s my home rally and number two, if we do China and Corsica then there’s a long time away from competition from the end of September until the middle of January.
“Yes, we’re going to be doing testing before Monte, but there’s nothing like competition to stay sharp. I’m not saying I want to go to GB to do something special or to try to win it – it’s worth remembering how rare it is for somebody to win that rally from anywhere except first on the road. What I want is to keep the edge. I’m talking to the team about it.”
Team principal Yves Matton confirmed his team’s presence at Deeside, telling MN: “It will be difficult not to be there, we have British and Irish crews and our company has a British CEO [Linda Jackson]. We will send somebody, but I won’t say that it will be Kris. I haven’t decided the line-up for the same reasons I didn’t make any early decisions this year. We want to have the flexibility. We did make changes to our plans this season, so it’s the right way, not to decide anything before we have to.”
Matton did confirm Meeke would be the team’s sole representative in China.
With the team not competing in Australia, Wales will offer Matton a final look at Breen and Lefebvre – both drivers are vying for a seat alongside Meeke next season.
Meeke himself wouldn’t be drawn on who he would prefer to have as his teammate in 2017.
“Honestly speaking, I don’t care who it is next season,” he said. “No team-mate would help me get a world championship. I have to do that on my own. If Citroen wants the manufacturers’ championship they have to put the best driver in the second car. I’ll get on with my own job and let somebody else worry about that.”
Meeke did, however, back Breen for a full-time job in the world championship.
“What Yves said about Craig being one of the 15 guys in line for a seat is a fair assumption,” he said. “There’s not many drivers in the junior categories right now who are looking for a break to the top level who can come forward and get a podium – what Craig did in Finland was special. I wish Craig all the best, he did a fantastic job in Finland and he absolutely deserves to be in a World Rally Car next year.”
Jost Capito’s frustrations are understandable. I’m not saying I agree. I’m saying I understand. Volkswagen’s multi-million pound programme is, according to some, being undermined by a vendetta by the governing body against its own world champion. There’s truth to that. Of course there is. Understandably, the FIA and WRC Promoter want to make the sport as unpredictable as possible and this has certainly done that.
Yes, Jost will argue that Meeke’s win was telegraphed from Friday morning, but if he’d had his way, most likely we’d have had one winner in six rallies.
That’s not Capito’s fault. And it’s certainly not Ogier’s. The rest of the world has to find more money, brainier engineers or faster drivers. Demonstrably, Hyundai, M-sport and Citroen have been missing one or more of those elements, otherwise Volkswagen’s dominance wouldn’t have been quite so complete in the last three years. Meeke’s win in Finland wasn’t about that. Granted, the road was cleaning on Friday, but it was Finland, not Portugal, Perth or New Zealand. There’s definitely a school of thought – particularly among some of the series’ former stars – that this running order issue has got into the heads and under the skins of their contemporaries.
One thing is sure, Trier won’t know what’s hit it when Ogier drops the clutch at the start of stage one. Frustration doesn’t come close. The real shame is that Meeke won’t be there to make the race even more interesting. Still, 2017’s getting closer… Capito and Meeke have been mates for a long time now and it’s worth pointing out there’s nothing personal in Jost’s comments – they would be the same whoever the driver was. His beef is 100 per cent with the regulations. Personally, I don’t care. Jost’s entitled to his opinion and I love the strength and passion he puts into his views. The build up to Finland would have been a whole lot less interesting if it hadn’t been for MN’S story about nobody standing a chance except for Meeke.
Capito’s intelligent and opinionated. That makes him a pretty good cup of coffee as far as I’m concerned.
At the same time, I think he’s wrong about Meeke’s latest win. Kris and Paul Nagle were faster and braver than anybody else on that rally. That’s why they won. That’s why they set a higher average speed than on any other round of the world championship and that’s why they smashed the record for Ouninpohja (admittedly in the other direction, but running in the other direction meant zero previous experience) by 12.4s.
That’s why Kris and Paul will be right at the sharp end of next year’s championship.
I’m only sorry Capito won’t be there to offer a running commentary.