MEEKE: RALLY GB GIVES ME A SPECIAL MOTIVATION RALLY GB GIVES ME A SPECIAL MOTIVATION
Northern Irishman aims to end 15-year wait for a home WRC winner
Kris Meeke will look to end a 15-year wait for another home winner of the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB this week.
The Dungannon star has already won twice for the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team this season, but success in Wales this week would mean a huge amount to Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle.
After Colin Mcrae and Richard Burns dominated Britain’s WRC round for six years between 1994 and 2000, no home driver has won it since. Meeke and his Citroen DS 3 WRC could change all that this week and go one better than the second place he scored at home last season.
“It’s the home rally,” he said. “Of course you want to win it. There’s special motivation here, a special feeling from this event.”
Meeke has taken confidence from his wins this season, especially Finland. And it’s that historic victory in Jyvaskyla, when Meeke became the first British driver ever to triumph on what’s still regarded among the most specialised events in the WRC season, that inspires him this week.
“When I went to Finland last year, I was always on the limit and I just couldn’t put any time into the Volkswagens,” Meeke told MN. “In the end, I was maybe 35 or 40 seconds off Jari-matti [Latvala]. But this year, it was different. This year I was able to find the speed to win. Look at Rally GB last year, I was 30 seconds behind [Sebastien] Ogier; same story. It was only on the second pass of Hafren where I was able to take five seconds or something. Everywhere else, he was able to take five, four, two, three seconds. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough for him to move away.
“Will I be able to do this week what I did in Finland? I don’t know. We’ll have to see, but the stages are mixed up a bit and that can only be a good thing.”
The opening day of this week’s Deeside-based event is running in the opposite direction to recent years – that’s something Meeke is comfortable with.
“They changed the direction of Ouninpohja in Finland this year,” said Meeke. “That was a pretty big talking point in that event, but we seemed to manage quite well making new notes in what were familiar surroundings there.”
Meeke took 13.4 and 5.8 seconds out of Latvala’s VW Polo R WRC on the two runs at the worldfamous Ouninpohja test.
The weather this week will play a key role in the chances for a
Meeke win, with recently crowned world champion Sebastien Ogier expected to enjoy the best of the conditions at the front of the field.
Meeke’s best bet is for a repeat of the heavy rain we saw last year.
Meeke said: “Last year I had really good pace running further back and that was because the constant rain was washing the road clean. If it’s in-between conditions; if it rains a bit, but it’s mainly just damp then you get that layer of mud which turns to a kind of slime as more cars pass, there’s nothing you can do with that.”
If the slime comes, Meeke’s race could be as good as run.
He added: “My hands will be completely tied, you simply can’t over-drive in these conditions. If everything’s in your favour and you get a good go at it then great, but if the weather’s like I’ve talked about then it’s so difficult. You can push harder, of course you can, but you’re really starting to risk going off the road and it’ll just end in an accident.”
Meeke is also quick to point out that he’s only here to maintain a competitive edge – and he’s doing that in a car which hasn’t been touched in terms of development since last season.
“Winning this week would be very nice, but it’s not necessary this year,” he added. “That sounds strange… of course it’s kind of necessary and, don’t worry, if I have half a chance to win the thing then I’ll be right there. But I know the limitations of where we are and I’ll come here with the same mindset that I’ve taken to every other round of the championship we’ve done this year: it’s all about experience.
“At the same time, the big thing for me is to come back to Wales next season in the right place on the road – nearer the front, because we’re coming back home in the middle of a title fight. This year’s important, it’s about seat time and competition, but next year’s the big one. Throughout this season, through the wins and everything we’ve done in the world championship this year, there has been a bigger picture and that bigger picture’s getting sharper and sharper in the frame now.”
This week will be Meeke’s ninth attempt at Rally GB, but only his fifth in a World Rally Car. It will be his third successive shot at the event in a DS 3 WRC. Comparatively speaking, Latvala is the most experienced factory driver in Britain and he’ll start in Wales for the 14th time this week.