Belfast Telegraph

Under-pressure Kris Meeke is fighting for his future

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke will be fighting for his Citroen future when he starts Rally Argentina tomorrow night. Three crashes in the first three rounds of this year's World championships see Meeke languishing in 11th place in the drivers' standing, 22 points behind team-mate Mads Ostberg.

Worse still, Citroen are only fourth in the manufacturers' table, already more than 50 points behind Volkswagen.

That is unacceptable to the nine-time World champions and there are concerns the French team's management may be forced to take action if the Dungannon driver cannot cut out the errors which have proved so costly.

No one at Citroen questions Meeke's pace or his competitive spirit; indeed, he is one of the few drivers who have been able to challenge the supremacy of VW's World champion Sebastien Ogier or Jari-Matti Latvala.

However, although Citroen continue to stand by him, there are increasing worries about Meeke's inability to eliminate the mistakes.

After initially leading the previous round in Mexico, he damaged his DS3 on only the fourth stage, falling back to finish 16th and pointless.

It was a similar story in Monte Carlo and Sweden where he set fastest times but failed to deliver significant points for the team.

Meeke, a former Intercontinental champion, holds his hands up.

"I know there's an issue somewhere and I have to get to the bottom of it," he said.

"If it keeps going on then it's not going to work, that's fairly clear.

"I know my job's on the line. You're only as good as you're last result and my results haven't been good enough. This is completely at my door."

Hard-working and always keen to carry out the bulk of testing for the Citroen team, he was given most of a month off after Mexico, only returning to the driving seat last week for a pre-Argentina session in Spain.

He was able to spend time with his wife Danielle and baby daughter Isabella as well as cycling in the Donegal hills, far away from rallying.

Citroen boss Yves Matton remains supportive and says he wants to see Meeke rebuild his confidence with a more measured approach in Argentina, where he was third last year.

"The only objective Kris will have in Argentina is to finish the rally without any mistakes," said Matton.

"Step-by-step, we can then find the confidence in his driving. This is the only approach we can have at the moment.

"Kris needs to rebuild in himself a little bit after what has happened. The only way to improve the situation is to work together and stay focused on our objective."

Matton, who has been a strong supporter of Meeke since his days in the Junior WRC, admitted he has been surprised by his poor start to 2015, particularly in light of his strong finish to his debut season as a factory driver in 2014.

"At the end of last year - in the second half of the season, starting in Finland - he had some really good results and was really consistent in each event. The beginning of this season is not what I expected for sure," he said.

"I'm quite confident that we can still achieve something with Kris.

"I knew in the beginning that some moments would be difficult, but what he showed in the second part of last season tells me that it's only a question of time."

But Meeke's fear is that time and patience may be running out.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph