Belfast Telegraph

I need to step up a gear to triumph: Meeke

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke says he will have to "step up to another level" if he is to continue his World Rally Championship winning streak on the Tour de Corse.

The Dungannon driver, who is only contesting selected rounds of this season's series while he concentrates on developing Citroen's new C3 car for 2017, won in Portugal and then Finland, but sees Corsica's tarmac roads as a different challenge.

He said: "When I think about the Tour de Corse it's the terrible conditions in 2015 that spring to mind - the heavy downpours, the flooding, the shortened or cancelled stages.

"We were looking to score points for the manufacturers' championship and my fourth place helped us achieve that. I hope conditions are kinder this time because this rally is absolutely fantastic when the roads are dry.

"I'm expecting this to be a tough rally to manage. On Friday we start with a 50km stage and, with no split times to help and no service all day, you have to find the right pace from the word go without overdoing it.

"As far as my objectives here, it's difficult to say. I won on the gravel in Portugal and Finland but I've always been quick on those surfaces. In Corsica I think I would need to step up to another level to be on a par with Sebastien Ogier and the Volkswagen team.

"The target remains to rack up as many miles as possible and keep improving to be ready for 2017, so I would be very happy to finish on the podium, but that's not a goal in itself."

However, Ogier, on the verge of a fourth successive World title, has said he would not be prepared to get into a head-to-head duel with Meeke this weekend.

The French star said: "My priority is the championship and I must focus on finishing the rally. If Meeke is in front I will try to keep the pressure on but I won't take big risks."

Meeke is joined in the Abu Dhabi Citroen team by Circuit of Ireland winner Craig Breen, who stands in for the injured Stephane Lefebvre. Breen will have been buoyed by the confirmation he will also tackle the Rally Catalunya in Spain in a fortnight's time as he continues to press his claims for a place alongside Meeke in 2017.

Breen produced an outstanding performance in Finland, claiming a first WRC podium finish in third place behind Meeke and VW's Jari-Matti Latvala, and is relishing the opportunity to show his pace on a rally he says reminds him of home.

The Waterford driver said: "I really love this rally. The narrow, bumpy roads remind me of the ones you get in Ireland, and maybe that's why I feel so at home here."

Belfast Telegraph


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