Belfast Telegraph

I'm finally in right place at right time, says Meeke as he relaunches career

 

New chapter: Kris Meeke
New chapter: Kris Meeke

By Sammy Hamill

It has been almost 250 days since Kris Meeke last drove a rally car in anger, nearly eight months during which he spent some time questioning whether he ever wanted to do it again.

Sacked by Citroen after yet another crash in Portugal last May, many thought his career was over. For a while, so did he.

But by August he knew he still had unfinished business in the WRC and started making calls. One was to Tommi Makinen, a four-time world champion and the man who, in little more than two years, had guided Toyota from scratch to their first manufacturers' championship in over a quarter of a century.

Many had lost faith in Meeke, but not Makinen. He threw the Ulsterman a lifeline with a contract to drive the Finnish-built Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota Yaris, starting with this week's Monte Carlo Rally.

It is a fresh start for the four-time WRC winner - new team, new car, new co-driver (Seb Marshall replacing Paul Nagle) and most importantly a new boss who had originally sought to recruit Meeke three years earlier.

"Everything Tommi outlined to me when we had that conversation three years ago has come true. He's done it his way, yet he's so easy to relate to and, as a four-time champion, he sees everything from a driver's point of view. It's a whole environment that I didn't think was possible any more to be honest," said Meeke.

"Considering what has gone before, I think this is the best opportunity of my career so far.

"My three-year contract with Mini turned out to be six rallies, I went with Citroen at a time they decided to concentrate on touring cars, and when the new C3 came along it was obvious that things weren't right.

"The 18 months before Citroen sacked me, I hadn't been enjoying it.

"The C3 had problems we couldn't fix and the atmosphere in the team was terrible. For the first time, I feel I'm in the right place at the right time."

He has been testing with the team since before Christmas and is impressed with the Yaris which brought Toyota the manufacturers' crown and so nearly saw Ott Tanak depose Sebastien Ogier as world champion.

"What the team was able to achieve last season, particularly in the second half of the year, gives me a lot of confidence in the car I am going to have underneath me," he said.

"I have been impressed by what the Yaris is capable of. I am still learning though, so I am not setting any big targets for Monte Carlo. My immediate priority is simply to enjoy driving again."

Meeke will line up alongside Toyota team-mates Tanak and Jari-Matti Latvala to relaunch his career when the Monte Carlo Rally begins this evening.

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