Kris Meeke keeping cool despite joint World title favourite tag
It says so much about the journey Kris Meeke has been on over the past three years that he is being quoted by bookmakers as joint favourite to become 2017 World rally champion.
From fearing he was on the point of losing his job with Citroen after crashing on Rally Portugal in 2014 to be listed with four-time champion Sebastien Ogier as a 2-1 shot to take the title this year is a staggering turnaround for the Dungannon driver.
The journey has seen him rise from his “all time low” to win in Argentina in 2015 and go on to get his Portuguese revenge by winning last season and then becoming the first British driver to conquer Rally Finland.
Even so, to be paired as joint favourite with Ogier, the most dominant figure in rallying since the retirement of nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb, is a bold call by the odds makers.
But, while shying away from title talk with the first round, the Monte Carlo Rally, just about to start, Meeke points out that the goalposts have been moved since French master Ogier claimed his fourth championship just a matter of months ago.
“So much has changed since the end of last season — Volkswagen quitting, Ogier moving to Ford, Toyota coming in but, most of all, completely new cars,” he said. “The truth is nobody knows what is going to happen. And we probably won’t for some time.
“Monte Carlo is a unique rally, a lottery really depending on the weather and who makes the least worse call on tyre choice.
“Sweden is nominally a snow rally but it can be anything from inches deep to slush or even just gravel and Mexico is usually all about survival. So it could be Corsica in April before a true picture starts to emerge.”
And he added: “I don’t think there will be any dominant force — not the way Volkswagen did over the past four years.”
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville is third favourite at 5-2 with Meeke’s team-mate Craig Breen quoted at 25/1.