Nothing can replace the heat of battle for pumped-up Meeke
Kris Meeke will set aside “the bigger picture” this week and get back into rally mode. It has been over three months since he last lined up in a World championship event and he admits he has missed the competitive element.
Not that the Ulsterman has been idle; far from it. He has been covering hundreds of miles in Citroen’s new C3 car in preparation for a change in the WRC regulations for 2017 but he will tell you it isn’t the same as fighting in the heat of battle.
That all changes today when he and co-driver Paul Nagle return to action in the Rally of Portugal and Meeke can’t wait.
“I’m really happy to be back in a rally week. It feels like a long time since we were competing in Sweden back in February. That’s not to say I haven’t been busy but you do miss the competition aspect,” he said.
“The new car represents the bigger picture, the future, but it feels great to be back in the DS3 and getting ready to tackle a real rally again. I’ve missed the buzz, the excitement you get at the start of any rally.”
Meeke was battling for the lead with the Volkswagens of World champion Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala in Portugal last year until damaged suspension on the final day dropped him to fourth. He is hoping a podium finish will be within reach.
He added: “With us not competing for the championship, we should have a very good starting position; I think we’ll end up being 13th or 14th on the road and they should be well swept of loose gravel by then. So we’ll try to make use of that advantage.”
Meeke, of course, won in Argentina in 2015, his first WRC victory.
The Portuguese round also, which begins with the shakedown stage this morning, sees the start of the Drive DMACK Ford R2 Trophy series and a first appearance of Fermanagh’s Jon Armstrong who earned his step up by winning the tyre company’s Vatanen Touch challenge.
He faces two other British drivers, former Rally NI winner Osian Pryce and Gus Greensmith as well as Ari Vatanen’s son Max.