Belfast Telegraph

Meeke is taking confidence from the past despite major changes to Corsica route

 

Kris Meeke
Kris Meeke

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke should have a Tour de Corse win on his World Rally Championship record but engine failure in his Citroen robbed him of near certain victory in 2017.

But, despite the disappointment, he says his performances in Corsica have given him confidence ahead of this year's edition which begins with a ceremonial start in Porto Vecchio this evening.

"I've had good times in Corsica in recent years, my speed's always been there," he asserted. "Having said that, it is always a huge challenge - especially this year with about 75 per cent of the route being completely new."

Currently fourth in the WRC standings and revelling in his switch from Citroen to Toyota, the Ulsterman is seen by many as a different driver this year - more relaxed, more measured, more consistent.

And, perhaps freed from the pressure of chasing wins in a car that was rarely capable of achieving them, he has become a solid team player for Tommi Makinen's Gazoo Racing squad, contributing significant points to Toyota's position at the top of the all-important manufacturers' championship.

Yet he has lost none of his old speed as confirmed by his Power Stage performances in Monte Carlo and Mexico which have netted him nine bonus points already and kept him in touch with team-mate Ott Tanak, world champion Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville in the chase for the drivers' title.

Corsica is one of the most torturous rallies in the WRC calendar, corner after corner - 10,000 of them, it's said - as it twists its way through the island's mountains. With so many new stages this year, Meeke says accurate pacenotes could be key which puts the spotlight on co-driver Seb Marshall in just his fourth rally alongside the Dungannon man.

But Meeke said: "I had a good feeling with the Yaris WRC in asphalt trim in Monte Carlo although it was a very different rally to Corsica - except perhaps for the Power Stage where we went pretty well!

"I enjoyed my pre-event Corsican test on Sunday, even though it was a lot to learn in just one day on just one road. But we're quite clear on our direction for the set-up, and I'm looking forward getting started."

Ogier has won twice on his return to Citroen but Tanak, the winner in Sweden, is four points ahead followed by Hyundai's Neuville and Meeke.

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