MEEKE IN THE PROMISED LAND
A man (and his van) gives David Evans a ride to remember
The tone of Kris Meeke’s voice has changed. The laughing’s stopped. Or at least, it’s paused momentarily. He’s got something to say. “Seriously,” he grins, “if she rolls, you’d better find something to hold on to.”
Of the two of us, only Kris is laughing now. Not least because he imparts this piece of advice shortly after we’ve started our third lap and approximately three seconds after… “Right come on, let’s see just how quick we can get this first corner.”
At this point my input gets even louder. Louder and more sweary.
Meeke yanks on the happy stick and chucks us at the first corner: a long, long right-hander.
I was rubbish at physics, but even I know its laws dictate this isn’t going to end well. I shut my eyes. Regular readers of these pages might have noticed a bit of an absence of stories from Citroen’s various development tests through the season.
Between you and me, we’ve been on the naughty step in Versailles. Last December we ran a story revealing Meeke would be joining Citroen. That story was landed the good oldfashioned hack way, with plenty of leg-work, prodding of sources and a bit of assumption.
Regardless of the story’s integrity (not to mention that it was factually spot-on), it wasn’t well received in Paris. Thunder in Citroen Racing is well protected. Never stolen.
So, no 2017 tests for us. At least not until we’d learned our lesson.
We haven’t learned our lesson. But a softening of approach, largely thanks to inbound PR star Sandie Benoit and a hand from Citroen UK has brought MN to the only test that really matters for Meeke and his co-driver Paul Nagle this season. Welcome to the Wales Rally GB test. This has been a strange season for Meeke. At the time of writing he’s competed on five rallies and won two of them. He could have won all five.
Competitively speaking, that’s been his season.
Yet he’s never been busier. After this GB test, he started a non-stop seven-week tour. That’s the thick end of 50 days without sleeping in his own bed or seeing his family. Careful what you wish for? Not a bit of it. “Of course it’s hard to be away from the family,” he says. “Having said that, our youngest is in the middle of teething right now, so it’s quite noisy in the house… Seriously, it is tough, but like I said, this is what I’ve always dreamed of doing. Being involved with a manufacturer with the kind of heritage and history Citroen has in the World Rally Championship is fantastic. But being the driver leading the development on a World Rally Car which came off a clean sheet of paper is really something else.
“It’s fair to say the reality has lived up to the dream. At least it has so far.”
Meeke’s not about the reveal anything terribly technical about how the C3 WRC and 2017 are shaping up, but his confidence with the new car has been growing with every test.
And his self-confidence has rarely, if ever, been higher.
Meeke’s a completely different fella to the one who talked about the potential of just tending his garden through 2017 when we were last in Wales. Since then, he landed the three-year deal he always knew would alter his approach and frame of mind. How could it not? “This time last year, I didn’t have a job,” says Meeke. “It was that
(diesel) Power: 115bhp Torque: 330Nm Transmission: frontwheel drive Gearbox: six-speed manual Suspension: Macpherson (front) trailing arm (rear)
137g/km 55.4 (combined)