Kris Meeke is quick to shrug off any World title talk
It has been nearly a year in the making, but now Citroen's World Rally Championship challenger has been officially unveiled.
Built to the new-for-2017 regulations, the definitive version of the C3WRC was launched in Abu Dhabi yesterday surrounded by the crews who will carry Citroen's hopes into next year's series. Led by Dungannon's Kris Meeke, the team has a distinctly Irish flavour with Paul Nagle, Craig Breen and Chris Patterson all part of the French manufacturer's line-up.
But it was the car which was under the spotlight, the first Citroen in more than a decade not to have been built around nine-time World champion Sebastien Loeb. The C3 has been designed and developed with major input from Meeke, who has done the bulk of the testing in the past eight months.
But he insists this does not place extra pressure on his shoulders.
"I've been testing Citroen cars nearly all my career and think I have the experience and the knowledge to provide the necessary feedback to the engineers. It's all about trusting my instincts and trying to make the car the best it can be," he said.
Winner of the Portuguese and Finnish rounds of the WRC this year, Meeke is being mooted as a potential World champion, especially following the sudden exit of Volkswagen and Sebastien Ogier's switch to Ford.
But Meeke believes talk of a World title is premature.
He said: "I'm confident we can compete at the highest level but the truth is we don't really know where any of us stand with the new cars. There are no figures from testing to compare one against the other. All you can do is look at the YouTube videos and see what everyone else is doing.
"It is not very scientific but it's interesting to see how the aerodynamics of the cars have been altered as the test sessions progressed through the year. It is going to be fascinating to see where we all stand although I don't think we will really know a great deal until the third or fourth rounds.
"Monte Carlo is a unique rally and a bit of a lottery; Sweden is the same depending on how much snow we get and Mexico can be a matter of survival. When we get back to Europe for France and Portugal is where we should see it all coming together. Until then I don't think we will really know who is going to be fighting for the World title."