Bri­ton may not be part of Citroen’s three-car GB en­try

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By David Evans Pho­tos: mck­lein-im­age­

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.

Meeke’s win­ter could be lengthy Meeke was sec­ond on Rally GB in 2015

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