Belfast Telegraph

Kris Meeke 'blown away' as he moves into supercars

By SAMMY HAMILL

Kris Meeke will take another step back onto the world stage when he makes his international rallycross debut in France next month against rally legends Sebastien Loeb and Petter Solberg.

Already called up to join Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo in the factory Citroen team for the World championship Rally of Finland starting on August 1, Meeke has been lined up to race in round seven of the European rallycross series at Loheac in Brittany at the end of August.

And as PR consultants IMG mount a big push to raise the profile of rallycross, ahead of the inaugural World championship next year, Meeke will on a starting list in France which also includes World rally champions Loeb and Solberg.

The former Intercontinental Challenge champion from Dungannon will drive a Peugeot 208 for the Albatec team in the supercar category.

Meeke joined the frenetic European rallycross scene as a member of the commentary team at Kouvola in Finland last month and came away hugely impressed.

"It was a great weekend and a real eye-opener," he said afterwards. "The cars are awesome, really powerful, and the racing, in front of a massive crowd, was brilliant."

He also made no secret of the fact he would love to try it. And now he can.

"This opportunity came up and, while my main priority remains a full-time drive in the World Rally Championship, I couldn't say no to it," said Meeke.

"It's a toe in the rallycross water for me, it just happens that a toe in the water means a supercar for the first time and competition including Sebastien Loeb and Petter Solberg."

Married in Majorca last weekend, Meeke broke off his honeymoon to fly to France to get his first taste of the Albatec Peugeot, a four-wheel-drive machine which accelerates from 0 to 60mph faster than an F1 car, in a two-day test session.

"I was blown away. I have never driven a car with this amount of horsepower, it's just incredible," he said afterwards, even though the test was cut short when team-mate Andy Scott crashed the Peugeot and broke his collarbone.

"It's all new to me and I've so much to learn – a new track, the conditions, the car and the engineers – but if you give any driver 600bhp, a steering wheel and pedals they're going to jump at it. I'm certainly not scared or anything like that.

"If I'm sat on the grid with Loeb on one side and Solberg on the other, then the three of us have a piece of metal with an engine and it's up to us to see who can make the best use of it.

"We'll just press the throttle and go for it. I've got nothing to lose. I honestly have no idea how I'm going to get on and it would be stupid to try and predict anything, but going in there and measuring myself against the best in the world is a great chance for me."

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