Meeke delighted to get Loeb approval
Kris Meeke says he is flattered to have been given the backing of Sebastien Loeb as he takes up the lead role in Citroen's bid to regain their supremacy in the World Rally Championship.
Ahead of this week's Monte Carlo Rally, and the start of the 2016 WRC series, nine-time World champion Loeb has said Meeke is "a good choice" to spearhead the development of Citroen's new C3 car for 2017 and beyond.
The French manufacturer is officially taking a gap year to design and build a new car for the revised WRC regulations which come into force next year. But Meeke will continue to compete in selected rounds this season in one of the current DS3 Citroens run by satellite team PH Sport.
His main job, however, is to work on the development of the C3, the first all-new rally Citroen to emerge in the post-Loeb era. The French master, who won a record 78 WRC rounds in his Citroen career, believes Dungannon driver Meeke is the man to carry on his legacy.
"Kris is very clever because he's an engineer as well as a driver," said Loeb. "He understands how the car is working, so to develop a new car they (Citroen) need him. Apart from Kris I don't see who else they could have got who would be better."
Meeke, who graduated in mechanical engineering from Queen's University before starting his rally career, said: "It is great to have the backing of a legend like Loeb but at the same time I still have to get in there and get the job done.
"Sebastien Loeb and Citroen set the bar very high when they were at the top of their game and it's that level that we're aiming to get back to."
Now with a three-year contract and no realistic expectations of challenging for the World title this year, Meeke says he feels relaxed as he prepares to start the iconic Monte tomorrow.
"2016 is not just a new season, it's the start of a new chapter in my career," he explained. "I don't feel like I'm under a great deal of pressure, mainly because we're not aiming for a particular result at the end of the season."
But the Monte is one of his favourite rallies and his aim is to be on the podium come Sunday.
"Instinctively, it's a rally I love but when you get to the service park and you have to make a tyre choice that will inevitably involve a compromise of some kind, the love can sometimes turn to hate!" he added.
"The major imponderable is the weather. If the cold conditions persist, we should have a lot of snow and ice but some parts will be wet, some dry and some icy - and that's one stage!
"It's all about making the correct tyre choice but if we have an error-free run and make the right calls, we shouldn't be too far away from the podium."
Meeke is joined by the newest French star Stephane Lefebrve in the PH Sport team for a rally which is again expected to be dominated by the Volkswagen Polos of triple World champion Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala. But even they have been known to succumb to the Monte's ever changing conditions.