Kris Meeke

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A letter from Kris

Monday, 1st August 2016 - by Kris Meeke
A letter from Kris

Hello again everyone,

I think it’s good for me to drop you a line directly every time I win. But it seems to be turning into a bit of a habit, because here I am again!

Last weekend in Finland was obviously very special for me, Paul and the whole Abu Dhabi Citroen Total World Rally Team. I managed to get the first win on the event for a British driver – but to be honest, I don’t really think of it like that. It’s a nice statistic to have, of course, but just to win Rally Finland at all is what really matters – no matter which corner of the world you come from.

The roads in Finland really are second to none, the stages are legendary and to win it the way we did – by making the difference on the most famous rally stage in the world, Ouninpohja – was pretty special. In fact, in terms of a single weekend, I don’t know how you would improve upon it. Of course we want to win the world championship, but for a single rally, it doesn’t get much better than that.

I’ve been reasonably fast in Finland before, but this time it just all clicked – and I really think it comes down to experience. Your knowledge and confidence just builds, so in Finland you’re able to squeeze the margins a bit more every year.

This year, in fact, we saw a lot of stage records broken, and I’ve been told that our win was the fastest ever victory on a World Championship rally. That’s another crazy statistic; I do rather like it!

In the lead-up to the event, a few senior figures – in particular, Jost Capito from VW – were predicting that I’d be strong. I think Jost must have put a fiver on me, actually, because he seemed particularly sure I was going to out in front! It’s good that people like him consider me a threat – and it’s an even better one to go and prove that they’re right.

But I have to say that I didn’t expect to have that type of domination on an event like Finland. When you’re up against Jari-Matti [Latvala] you’re never confident, and even when I was going out to Ouninpohja on Saturday morning, we had 18 seconds in hand over him but he’d lost about 15 the day before with a puncture. Really the difference was only three seconds after all of Friday’s mileage; the rally wasn’t in my hands at that stage. It was only when we came to the end of Ouninpohja that I felt we’d be able to control it from there.

The art of controlling a rally – something we’ve been able to do in Portugal and now Finland – is purely down to experience; I know that now. If I think back to Monte Carlo in 2014, my first podium, I was a bag of nerves throughout that event, running in third place. Then when I was leading in Argentina, I was nervous the whole time; sometimes I’d lose 20 seconds because I wanted to slow down and be careful, but didn’t know how much to slow down by.

Kris with Ari Vatanen at the finish of Rally Finland

Portugal this year was another step, because we were able to control the event from the first stage to the last. The more you do something, the more you’re able to control it – so it really is down to experience. I’m so, so happy to have been able to put that experience to good use, on the biggest rally of them all.

It was great, too, to have another Irishman on the podium beside me and Paul, thanks to an astonishing achievement from Craig Breen. To be honest, his opportunity was a bit similar to me back in 2013, although I’d barely done a rally in two years leading up to getting my big chance! Still, when you do Finland in a World Rally Car it’s a totally different rally, and even though he’d been there before in smaller cars, it was a big step up.

Nobody expected Craig to get that result but he’s certainly put himself on the map in the World Championship. All eyes are watching at this time of year, thinking about 2017 and beyond, and he certainly done himself no harm in that respect. It was a crazy result for someone with his level of experience.

We’ve always known the DS 3 is suited to Finland, of course. Sebastien Loeb has won there twice with the DS 3, and while it’s a relatively old car, I think we proved that when Citroen Racing build a car, they build it right. It’s special to know that a car of this age – and one that we haven’t really done any fresh development on for the past couple of years or so – can still be so competitive. We have to carry that knowledge and experience forward to the development of the C3.

Speaking of next year’s car, it’s back to testing work for me now; indeed, as I write, I’m preparing for more miles in the C3 WRC as we get ready for 2017. Keep an eye out on the site for the official Citroen Racing videos that they’re posting as we get closer to the start of next season in Monte Carlo. The sort of buzz I had in Finland means I’m more desperate than ever to get going with a full assault on the world title.

As always, thanks for your support,

Kris

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