Belfast Telegraph

Citroen drive a dream come true for Kris Meeke

By Sammy Hamill

It was a secret Kris Meeke had been guarding for the best part of two months; a secret he could only share with his family and a tight circle of close friends.

While speculation swirled around the make-up of the Abu Dhabi Citroen team in next season's World Rally Championship, with up to half-a-dozen names thrown into the pot, Meeke kept quiet, already knowing he was finally to realise the dream he has harboured for the best part of a decade.

"I was approached as far back as Rally France in October and although the details had to be sorted out I was never going to say no," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"To have a full programme in the World Championship with a team like Citroen, a team which has won so many titles and is so professional, is what I have been dreaming about since I was driving in the Junior World series back in 2005-06.

"It has been a rocky road since then, with a lot more lows than highs, but I have always believed I had the ability to be competitive in the World championship and I'm happy that people like (team principal) Yves Matton and the decision makers in the Abu Dhabi Citroen team believe that too."

After a disappointing season in which they lost their World title to Volkswagen, Citroen decided on a "new broom" approach, discarding the under-performing duo of Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo and gambling their multi-million pound budget on a pair of hungry fighters in Meeke and young Norwegian Mads Ostberg.

Many believed Meeke, who has been the main test driver for both Citroen and Peugeot for the past year, had blown his chances when he crashed during two stand-in appearances for the team in Finland and Australia.

But dig beneath the surface and it emerges that his "go for it" attitude and his ability to set competitive top five times, even though he had spent little time in the DS3 WRC car or driven in the World Championship since the demise of the Prodrive Mini team at the end of 2011.

"It's very easy to look back at those two events I did and the immediate thing that stands out is that I went off the road on both occasions, but you don't judge a book by the cover," said Meeke.

"There were a hell of a lot more positives than negatives. Yes, the negatives were big and the end result was missing, but everything else was there.

"From never having sat in the car to go and do what we did in Finland and to turn up in Australia having not driven the car since Finland and go and win the qualifying stage and be lying second overall after the first loop of stages, I don't think anyone can deny there is potential.

"Yes, I made mistakes, which I bitterly regret, but there were a lot of positives to take away from those two rallies.

"Fortunately for me Citroen recognised that potential and now it is up to me to make the most of this opportunity."

Meeke has been re-united with his 2009 Intercontinental Challenge championship-winning co-driver Paul Nagle and they are already in the south of France with new team-mates Ostberg and Jonas Andersson to prepare for the 2014 season opening Monte Carlo Rally on January 14.

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