Belfast Telegraph

Kris Meeke aims to make up for German crash

By Sammy Hamill

Almost three weeks have passed since Kris Meeke "dropped the ball" when he was gifted the chance to win his first World Championship rally in Germany.

He admits "it took me a while to get over the disappointment of not seeing it through to the end" but insists: "What hurts you makes you stronger and I know I will benefit from the experience in the long run."

It is a belief he carries into this week's Rally Australia which begins from Coffs Harbour on the coast of New South Wales tomorrow. In a one-off appearance in this rally last year, he demonstrated his ability to compete at the highest level when he set the fastest time in the qualifying stage and ran competitively in the top three until he crashed.

But the former Intercontinental Challenge champion from Dungannon had shown the Abu Dhabi Citroen team bosses enough to convince them to hand him a contract for 2014, a decision which has had more ups and downs than a Blackpool big dipper.

From the highs of podiums in Monte Carlo, Argentina and Finland, to the lows of accidents in Mexico, Portugal and, of course, Germany.

A win in Germany would have all but guaranteed Meeke retained his place for next season but when he hit a wall with the finishing line beckoning he threw the situation back into the melting pot.

Team principal Yves Matton says the disappointment – it could have been Citroen's 12th successive win in Germany – won't affect his decision on the make up of the team for next year but it makes the Australian event all the more critical for Meeke.

On the one hand he has been the virtually the only driver to take the fight to the dominant Volkswagen duo of Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala but on the other he has shown a worrying tendency to make mistakes at vital moments.

Meeke currently sits a lowly eighth in the WRC standings but his pace suggests he should be close to the top three and Citroen will have to weigh up his potential against his inability to deliver consistent results before they make a decision on the future of both him and Norwegian team-mate Mads Ostberg who is fourth.

But it is Meeke, despite his inexperience of WRC events, who has excited and frustrated the Citroen hierarchy in equal measure. As one TV commentator said: "You hold your breath every time Kris Meeke starts a stage. You know anything can happen."

The Ulsterman's big band of fans back home will be nervously logging onto the internet for overnight news when they waken up these next few mornings.

They were among the many racing drivers who drove Crossle cars in the early days of their careers and John Watson and Martin Donnelly are back home in Belfast today for the launch of a book which chronicles the history of the little Holywood company which became an Ulster success story worldwide.

'Hidden Glory' tells the story of John Crossle's passion, ingenuity and engineering expertise which went into building of more than 1,000 racing cars and helped launch the careers of hundreds of aspiring drivers from homegrown Watson and Donnelly to Nigel Mansell and Peter Gethin.

Written by motorsport TV commentator and producer Plum Tyndall, the book goes on sale today with a signing session attended by the former GP stars on board the SS Normadic in Belfast's Titanic Quarter from 12 noon until 2pm.

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