Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By David Evans Full story: p2-3

Citroen ace Kris Meeke stands on the cusp of be­com­ing the first Bri­tish World Rally Cham­pi­onship driver to win a hat-trick of events for 15 years on Rally France this week­end.

The North­ern Ir­ish­man has taken vic­tory in his last two starts in the WRC in Por­tu­gal and Fin­land and goes into the Tour de Corse rally aim­ing to re­write his own per­sonal record book.

“It is a very tough rally,” said Meeke. “You need to be right on the top of your game from the very start of the event to stand a chance of win­ning.”

The event be­gins on Fri­day morn­ing.

Kris Meeke ar­rives at this week’s Tour of Cor­sica with a shot at be­com­ing the first Bri­tish driver to se­cure a World Rally Cham­pi­onship hat-trick since 2001.

While the North­ern Ir­ish­man hasn’t com­peted on ev­ery round of the se­ries this sea­son, he has won the last two ral­lies he’s started in Por­tu­gal and Fin­land. Vic­tory on the French is­land would re­write his­tory for the Abu Dhabi To­tal World Rally Team driver.

Colin Mcrae man­aged two WRC hat-tricks, end­ing what had been a try­ing 1997 sea­son with three wins, be­fore suc­ces­sive vic­to­ries in Ar­gentina, Cyprus and Greece in a Ford Fo­cus RS WRC 01 in 2001. Richard Burns came clos­est in 2000, when he won three from four ral­lies, but a sec­ond place in Catalunya spoiled the run.

Meeke, who fin­ished fourth, more than a minute down on even­tual win­ner Jari-matti Lat­vala in Ajac­cio last sea­son, is talk­ing down his chances of what would be a bril­liant three-in-arow aboard his DS 3 WRC. Meeke has com­peted on the is­land event three times pre­vi­ously (he did also get a run on the 2013 ERC counter, where he drove a Peu­geot 208 R2 as course car), but his own as­sess­ment of his re­sult last sea­son is the main rea­son he’s rul­ing him­self out of the fight for vic­tory this week.

“Last year,” said Meeke, “Cor­sica wasn’t strong for me. I was pretty pa­thetic there. The con­di­tions were hor­ren­dous and there was no way I could start to try to ex­plore the speed or the limit of the car. It was re­ally bad from that point of view.

“So, with a form­book like the one I have in Cor­sica, my hope is to go there and change it, turn it around and get some rhythm back on those stages. I’m cer­tainly not go­ing to Cor­sica with any thoughts of a hat-trick.”

Meeke’s lack of form in Cor­sica con­trasts with the speed he’d shown in Por­tu­gal and Fin­land in pre­vi­ous sea­sons.

Meeke agreed, say­ing: “Those two had al­ways been strong ral­lies for me – par­tic­u­larly with Por­tu­gal mov­ing to the north and us­ing new stages. But Cor­sica, I have no real form there.”

Meeke added the na­ture of this week’s penul­ti­mate as­phalt round of the sea­son didn’t lend it­self to an all-out charge or a slow

start. He said: “Cor­sica’s a hellish tricky event and that’s be­fore you re­ally start to think about the weather, which can change in no time. It’s corner af­ter corner af­ter corner, ev­ery­body knows the story with Cor­sica.

“The first stage is straight into it with 49 kilo­me­tres (30.44 miles), so you have to be re­ally care­ful to try and make sure that you find the rhythm or you could be a long way down af­ter just the first stage. If you want to be at the sharp end on this rally then it’s so im­por­tant to be on your marks right from the very start.”

Meeke’s last two wins have caused a con­sid­er­able stir in the ser­vice park, with Volk­swa­gen’s out­go­ing team prin­ci­pal Jost Capito par­tic­u­larly out­spo­ken about the value of those wins, which came from a prefer­able po­si­tion on the road due to Meeke’s po­si­tion in the world cham­pi­onship points.

Se­bastien Ogier has al­ready told MN he’s not in­ter­ested in fight­ing Meeke and the Dun­gan­non star says he’ll be do­ing his own thing.

“I’m not think­ing about beat­ing Se­bastien Ogier or any­body like that,” he said. “I’m not go­ing there with a fixed idea of beat­ing peo­ple and I cer­tainly won’t be con­cen­trat­ing on Seb and try­ing to get a third win in suc­ces­sion.”

Ta­bles are turned on Meeke this week, with Ogier likely to be run­ning in the best of the con­di­tions at the front of the field. Cer­tainly, if the weather turns wet, it’s widely ac­cepted to be more dif­fi­cult to win from fur­ther down the run­ning or­der.

Meeke said: “I would pre­fer con­sis­tent con­di­tions and the dry would suit me the best, that would give me the chance to try to find a bit of pace – that’s what I’m go­ing there for. The place on the road won’t nec­es­sar­ily help me this time. Last year, when the con­di­tions were re­ally wet, there was quite a lot of pol­lu­tion on the road. It was so dirty it felt like you were driv­ing a dif­fer­ent event [to the cars at the front].”

Gath­er­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and con­fi­dence from this week’s Tour of Cor­sica will be vi­tal for Meeke, given that he’ll be back on the is­land in six months and chas­ing points in his first se­ri­ous, sea­son­long ti­tle tilt for the fac­tory Citroen team. The FIA and WRC Promoter have put pres­sure on the French or­gan­is­ers to slot into an April date, help­ing to ease cal­en­dar con­ges­tion in the fi­nal quar­ter of the sea­son.

Meeke’s Fin­land win was a land­mark re­sult

Meeke has flown in the DS 3 WRC this sea­son North­ern Ir­ish­man is chas­ing a hat-trick of WRC vic­to­ries ahead of 2017

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