Belfast Telegraph

Meeke bid to power Citroen back into World title battle

By Sammy Hamill

It may not be crisis time for Citroen and Kris Meeke but it is certainly crunch time after their underwhelming start to the 2017 World Championship and rallying's new era.

Round three sees them in Mexico this weekend, an event far removed from the ice and the snow of Monte Carlo and Sweden where the new C3 Citroen was found wanting despite a year of testing and development.

Meeke and his team-mates Craig Breen and Stephane Lefebvre didn't go so far as to say the car was undriveable in those conditions but their body language suggested they were just trying - sometimes unsuccessfully - to keep it on the road.

It is astonishing that technical director Laurent Fregosi has since admitted they got their preparations wrong - this from a senior figure in a Citroen team which has won Monte Carlo more times than any other in recent years.

"We have learned the lessons (of the first two rounds) by correcting a certain number of issues and the situation will be different in Mexico, because the C3 WRC has done most of its running on gravel," said Fregosi.

Meeke will certainly be hoping so. Other than his terse "we have work to do" after finishing out of the points in Sweden, the Dungannon driver has said little in the intervening weeks. He has concentrated on ironing out the faults during testing in Spain and said: "I think we are headed in the right direction."

Although he is in Mexico, Breen sits this one out despite being Citroen's top WRC scorer and the second C3 will be in the hands of Lefebvre.

Neither has huge experience of the rugged, high altitude Mexican stages but they both know this is a rally full of pitfalls. The thin air sucks power from the engines and the gravel roads are littered with stray rocks, Meeke admitting they will have to guard against being too aggressive.

He knows he needs a strong finish to get Citroen back in the WRC race which has seen World champion Sebastien Ogier take his first victory for Ford in Monte Carlo and an emotional Jari-Matti Latvala win for the brand new Toyota team in Sweden.

The rally begins tonight with two short stages in the heart of Mexico City before heading north to its base in Leon.

Belfast Telegraph

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