Belfast Telegraph

Kris Meeke happy to prove he is still a top driver

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke has shrugged off a warning from Citroen Racing boss Yves Matton that his place in the team for next year is under threat if he does not deliver results in the second half of the World rally championship season.

Matton, a long-time supporter of the Ulsterman, vented his frustration after Rally Poland, saying Meeke's crash in the shakedown there, and at the previous round in Sardinia, had all but wiped out the positives of his victory in Argentina.

He said they put question marks over Meeke's future with the team.

The criticism has heaped pressure on the former Intercontinental Challenge champion from Dungannon ahead of this weekend's Rally Finland, one of the fastest rallies on the WRC calendar.

But Meeke says he is unperturbed.

"To be honest, I've driven most of my career never having a secure future and it seems like that's the case again at the moment. It's pretty much the norm," he told WRC Radio's Regroup programme.

"I'm always under pressure to get to the next rally and to do well, to get results to get another season. I've been through a lot harder times than this. At least I have a seat and a steering wheel to do a good job this year to prove that we can continue next year."

And he defended his recent form, suggesting that his Argentinian win was not an accurate reflection of where Citroen stand in their battle with Volkswagen.

"Nobody will take Argentina away from me, no matter what," he insisted. "It was a high - albeit on a rally where VW had their worst week since they started. I remained realistic afterwards and the following event in Portugal showed that.

"I believe in Portugal we nearly had a stronger rally than Argentina yet we ended up fourth behind the three VWs. That showed the reality of where we were."

Meeke (pictured) said he took full responsibility for his opening day crash in Sardinia but doesn't believe the Poland accident was comparable.

"Sardinia was a big, big disappointment, and I think Yves made his disappointment evident," he said. But despite the pre-start accident he feels he put in a good performance in Poland while admitting the baffling shakedown crash knocked his confidence on an event where total commitment is all-important.

Nevertheless he still finished ahead of his team-mate, Mads Ostberg.

"The fact that we didn't do a pre-event test there really handicapped us," said Meeke.

"We [the team] made a wrong tyre call at one point, but without that we'd have been fighting with Hyundai's Hayden Paddon for fourth place. From my end, we had one blip in Sardinia, and that's that."

Unlike Ostberg, Meeke is always careful not to criticise the performance of the Citroen DS3 but it is widely accepted it falls short of the VWs. He wouldn't say so publicly but it means he is driving on the edge just to stay in touch with the Polos of World champion Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen.

And nowhere is the edge more dangerous than Finland. Dubbed the Finnish Grand Prix, it is not for the faint-hearted with its fast gravel stages and huge jumps.

Unsurprisingly, it is one of Meeke's favourite events and Matton's warning is unlikely to change his 'maximum attack' approach. It starts tomorrow evening.

Belfast Telegraph


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