Belfast Telegraph

Meeke banks on being clever to bag points in Swedish snow scene

 

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke has been known to observe that he didn't get much chance to drive on snow when he was growing up in Dungannon - but that doesn't mean he isn't looking forward to this weekend's Rally Sweden, the only full snow rally now on the World championship calendar.

Far from it. He loves going flat out in the frozen Swedish forests, as does Citroen team-mate Craig Breen.

But it is not their natural environment, nor that of Citroen. For all his record 79 WRC victories, the great Sebastien Loeb only won there once for the French manufacturer.

True, Sebastien Ogier has won there three times but that was when Volkswagen were all but unbeatable and history says this is a rally for the northern Europeans, the Scandinavians mainly, like Jari Matti Latvala, Ott Tanak, Andreas Mikkelsen and former Circuit of Ireland winner Esapekka Lappi.

Meeke knows he will have to be clever, like he was in Monte Carlo, to get a result which will at least maintain his third place in the championship standings.

Most importantly, he will want to avoid the nightmare of last year, when he crashed during the pre-start shakedown and then got stuck in a soft snowbank on day two.

But after a two-day test in near perfect winter conditions, he's relishing the challenge.

"Like all the WRC drivers, I love this rally and can't wait to get started," he enthuses.

"In the last few seasons, with a limited amount of snow, you had to be very cautious or risk getting stuck in a snow bank after the slightest impact. The snow banks seem to be bigger and more compact this time around, so we'll be able to drive more aggressively.

"Having said that, the aim is to tackle it with the same sensible approach as in Monte-Carlo."

Bring clever, as he put it, brought him and co-driver Paul Nagle fourth place and with five bonus points for winning the final Power Stage, leaving them in joint third position.

But the Ulsterman was highly critical of his and Breen's C3 WRC Citroens, saying they were uncompetitive against the Fords, Toyotas and Hyundais, pointing out he was some four minutes adrift of winner Ogier with Breen even further back in ninth.

The likelihood of them showing much improved traction and performance on their least favoured surface is slim so it may prove a damage limitation exercise for the Citroen duo.

It is also a step into the unknown for Ulster's young British Junior champion Callum Devine.

He's one of 15 drivers accepted into the Junior World series, all driving identical R2T Ford Fiestas which are prepared by M-Sport's Ford operation in Poland.

"It will be a totally new experience for me," says Devine. "I've never driven a snow rally before or driven a rally car on studded tyres. It is going to be an interesting experience."

The rally starts this evening with a short spectator stage at the Karlstad trotting track before the action moves to the forests tomorrow morning.

Belfast Telegraph

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