Belfast Telegraph

Throwing caution to the wind has paid off for Meeke

By Sammy Hamill

It was a year ago that Kris Meeke finally got the opportunity to drive a full factory-prepared WRC car in the World rally championship. Citroen were looking at their 2014 options and team boss Yves Matton decided to gamble on the Ulsterman, whose career had stalled after he won the 2009 Intercontinental Challenge title.

He was the French team's top test and development driver, his ability well known to Matton, and for Rally Finland he was given his chance in a third Citroen DS3.

But, after an encouraging first two days in which he ran in the top five, leading his team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo, Meeke crashed in sight of the finish. To many people it seemed he had blown his big opportunity.

But 12 months on Meeke is back in Finland as a fully-fledged member of the Citroen team, sitting seventh in the championship standings and with podium finishes in Monte Carlo and Argentina.

He looks back to last year and believes it was his decision to "throw caution to the wind" and demonstrate he had the speed to compete at the highest level which persuaded Citroen to offer him a 2014 contract – despite the crash.

"I like to think I grabbed that opportunity with both hands. I knew it was a one-off, on the trickiest and fastest rally in the WRC, and as I hadn't done an event in two years it was a huge challenge.

"But if I'd just driven a really sensible rally, finished somewhere in the top 10, I don't know if it would have created any more opportunities. I'd seen Chris Atkinson get the same offer in Mexico, and although he finished sixth, he didn't show enough to encourage another drive, so I had to throw caution to the wind.

"Unfortunately it fell apart on the last kilometre on the second run through Ouninpohja where the splits showed I was quicker than Sebastien Loeb in the same car the previous year. But I had to roll the dice and luckily by that time I'd done enough."

Meeke would love a podium finish this weekend but will he go chasing that result? "No. I'll drive at my own rhythm and hope it will be good enough to get me near the front," he said.

The Finland line-up also includes Craig Breen, who switches from his European championship Peugeot to drive a WRC Ford Fiesta, and Alastair Fisher, celebrating his 26th birthday this week, continuing his campaign in the WRC3 category.

Belfast Telegraph

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