MEEKE IN THE PROMISED LAND

A man (and his van) gives David Evans a ride to re­mem­ber

Motor Sport News - - Rally Gb Preview: Meeke - MPG: En­ter­tain­ment:

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)

3100kg

137g/km 55.4 (com­bined)

Dis­patch van was put at an­gles it shouldn’t achieve Meeke gave Evans a lift he won’t be for­get­ting

OC­TO­BER 26 2016

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