Belfast Telegraph

Rivals are starting to become wary of Meeke's threat

By Sammy Hamill

The Volkswagen duo of Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala have been virtually unchallenged in this year's World rally championship. Between them, they have won every round, usually after battling among themselves.

It would be wrong to say they are now looking in their rear view mirrors at the increasing pace of Citroen's Kris Meeke. But they are aware he is becoming a 'player' in the latter half of the season.

The Dungannon driver, along with co-driver Paul Nagle, has joined them on the podium in two of the last four rounds, his third place finish in Finland earlier this month in particular leading to complimentary comments from both of them.

For a time he split the duelling VW duo, drawing praise from home winner Latvala, who said: "This was the best drive he has ever done, very fast, very consistent. Outstanding."

Ogier, too, has joined in, predicting Meeke could be "contending for a win" before the season is over. Could it be Rally Deutschland this weekend?

The Ulsterman, currently sixth in the WRC standings, shies away from the notion, pointing out that he has not driven "a proper, all asphalt rally in three years".

But there is no doubt he has been buoyed by recent performances which have come after a shaky start to his Citroen career.

"I always asked people not to judge me on the first half of the season," he says. "Knowledge and experience are everything and most of those rallies I had never done before. It makes such a difference when you know about the grip levels and how you want to set up the car to cope with them.

"Finland was probably the first rally I felt fully confident at. I have been to Germany a couple of times before and, although it has been a while, I have fond memories. The aim is to pick up where I left off and see if we can make life a little more uncomfortable for the VWs."

Meeke is also aware that he and team-mate Mads Ostberg are driving for their Citroen futures.

Motorsport director Yves Matton has said he will make a decision on the team's 2015 line-up after the Finland, Germany and Australia rounds and although Meeke impressed in Finland, it will have added extra pressure as he prepares for the start in Trier tonight.

"I'm not going to dwell on what might or might not happen," he insists. "My focus is purely on doing the best job I can and others will decide if it is good enough."

Irish involvement in the rally, which is largely based in the vineyards of the Mosel valley and the Eiffel Mountains, extends to Craig Breen and Sam Moffett, who will be in action in their WRC Ford Fiestas, as well as Marty McCormack in the Italian A-Style team's WRC2 Fiesta and Alastair Fisher who continues his JWRC campaign in a two-wheel-drive Citroen DS3.

Belfast Telegraph

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