ARE FIGHTING FOR THE FRENCH
term commitment, it made such a difference. Before that I was constantly trying to prove something while driving on the edge.
CB: I know what you mean, getting a manufacturer like this behind you brings so much more confidence. Do you feel the expectation from Citroen?
KM: Of course you do, success runs right through this organisataion – but we’re in a different time now. Sebastien Loeb was Sebastien Loeb, he was a oneoff and I don’t think we’ll ever see a driver winning nine titles in a row again. I’m not Sebastien Loeb, I haven’t won one title yet – haven’t even come close. But I don’t think anybody could want it more than I do and having the backing of a team like Citroen is massive.
MN: Do you feel different again coming into this season?
KM: I think about those kind of things a lot less now than I did before. There’s less doubt in my head. I don’t think I ever doubted myself, I was always sure I could get here, but it was difficult when I was trying to show my speed while I was also trying secure the remainder of the season. And going up against a guy like Mads [Ostberg] was tough. Mads might not be an out and out title contender, but he’s a hell of a quick guy when you’ve been thrown into a car to show yourself against him. I knew I could do it, but I did trip myself up a few times along the way.
CB: Your speed is definitely one of your strengths, but it always comes at that risk as well. I would say you are the quickest guy from A to B in the championship. Look at Ouninpohja last year, even if the rest of us had driven the stage of our lives, I don’t think anybody would have come close to you. But when you have that ability to drive at that speed, there’s always the risk it can go a bit wrong.
MN: What do you think of Kris’s title chances this year, Craig?
CB: This is his best chance yet, no doubt. He’s in a fantastic position with a good contract and the team right behind him, plenty of testing, good experience of most events and, like we’ve talked about, he has the speed. His natural rival for the title is Sebastien Ogier and he’s stepping into that new car without so much experience, which will be an advantage for Kris as well. I honestly think this could be your year and I wish you all the best. It’s great to be in a team with Kris and to get some of that experience and knowledge rubbing off.
KM: I was lucky in that I had a few people around me when I was younger who could offer me advice on everything and, of course, I’m going to be the same with you. We’re a very open team here, there’s no secrets on the set-up or anything like that.
CB: The atmosphere in the team is pretty special.
KM: With so many of us from Ireland – north and south – I think we have the casting vote in a French team!
CB: It’s great though. It’s like being back at home and that’s so good to help relax everybody. Like I said, having Kris there is great, but having Paul [Nagle, Meeke’s co-driver] is fantastic. Paul has co-driven for me and kind of been there through a lot of my career. And we have Chris [Patterson, Khalid Al Qassimi’s co-driver] as well. Fortunately we have Stephane [Lefebvre] and Gabin [Moreau, Lefebvre’s co-driver] to maintain the French presence!
MN: Should we mention Scott? He might feel left out?
CB: We probably should yeah! Scotty’s [Martin, Breen’s co-driver] fantastic – apart from when he’s talking about football. Seriously though, there’s absolutely nowhere I would rather be right now than in this team. We all get on so well, I love it.
MN: This is the first time we’ve ever had two drivers from the Emerald Isle in a full-time factory World Rally Championship team. How has that gone down at home?
KM: It’s good. We had Colin [Mcrae] and Richard [Burns] who were Scotland and England and now we’ve got the north and south of Ireland. I hope people get on the back of this and enjoy it. There’s no doubt it’s a fantastic boost for Irish rallying.
CB: I think it’s a real shot in the arm for the sport back home to be honest. And I think it shows what a good standard the sport is currently operating at back home – it shows our domestic series are good enough for drivers to come out of there and into the junior or support series in the European or World Rally Championship. It’s great for the fans as well. The Irish rally fans are a fairly unique bunch of people and I look forward to meeting more and more of them this year.
MN: What’s it like at home now, are you recognised more?
CB: That’s a tricky one for me to answer. Where I’m from it’s all about hurling and I live slap-bang in the middle of two of the biggest hurling teams in Ireland. You get recognised every now and then, but, to be honest, I don’t care about that at all – it’s not why I’m doing this. Unless it got me a bit of a discount on my shopping, that is…
KM: We’re all the same when we’re sitting on the toilet – nobody’s a superstar then!
CB: Do you get recognised much back at home?
KM: There’s the odd chat when I’m at the petrol station in Dungannon, but I’m in Andorra a lot these days and I just get on with things out there. Like you say, we’re not in this to be famous. I’m in this because it’s the job I’ve always dreamed of doing and I want to do it to the best of my ability. n
Craig Breen’s third place in Finland was huge achievement
Breen’s drive to the podium in Finland helped cement his full-time seat
Rally GB will be special for Citroen
Meeke flew to victory in Portugal