KRIS MEEKE FIRED UP FOR TOP FLIGHT RETURN
Northern Irish rally star Kris Meeke is poised to make an extraordinary comeback in this weekend’s Monte Carlo Rally (24-27 January), the opening round of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Midway through last season, the Ulsterman’s topsy-turvy career seemed finished after he was unceremoniously dropped by Citroën following a succession of dramatic high-speed accidents. Now he’s making a surprise return… and with the WRC’s top team.
Fresh from taking the 2018 Manufacturers’ title with its impressive winged Yaris wondercar, Toyota has thrown Meeke a welcome lifeline. Over the winter months, the Japanese company signed him up as an exciting addition to its all-star line-up alongside two of the sport’s other top guns: Ott Tänak and Jari-Matti Latvala.
The move has created a three-pronged ‘Super Team’ (photo bottom left below) and given 39-year-old Meeke his best shot ever to challenge for the World Championship.
“I’m really grateful to Toyota for giving me the opportunity,” admitted the County Tyrone man. “Their Yaris was just awesome last year and I get so much confidence from those recent results as well as the fact that the team took the Manufacturers’ title.”
While the Yaris (photo below bottom) has proved to be the fastest WRC car on current form, to challenge for the crown, Meeke knows he must change his mindset and become more consistent.
A record of five WRC wins proves he has the rapid speed but, as his critics attest, those victories have been interspersed with numerous accidents and inconsistencies not dissimilar to the swashbuckling ‘win it or bin it’ style so famously displayed by Meeke’s own hero, Colin McRae. History shows that title-winning drivers have the ability to bank points when victories are not on the cards.
“I simply want to enjoy my driving again,” said the WRC’s maverick. “I want to enjoy the car I have beneath me. I remember the feeling I had in 2016 when I had confidence in my machine, I could just turn-up and dominate rallies at certain times. If I can recapture that feeling, then there’s no reason why I can’t still achieve my personal targets.
“I have only done a few days’ testing in the Yaris so far, but to date I have a good feeling and there’s a really positive atmosphere within the team.”
Having already racked up victories in Argentina, Portugal, Finland, Mexico and Spain, Meeke would now dearly love to add a home win on Rally GB to that list.
“To be honest, I’m excited about all the rallies but, for sure, I’m relishing the opportunity to have another chance to be back on Rally GB – that is something pretty special,” he admitted. “I have a lot of ground to cover before I get to Wales, but it’s certainly one I’ll be looking forward to.”
Tickets for this year’s Wales Rally GB (3-6 October) will go on sale in the spring when the 2019 competitive route is announced.
2019 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
24-27 January Monte Carlo Rally
14-17 February Rally Sweden
07-10 March Rally Guanajuato Mexico
28-31 March Tour de Corse (France)
25-28 April YPF Rally Argentina
09-12 May COPEC Rally Chile
30 May-02 June Vodafone Rally de Portugal
13-16 June Rally Italia Sardinia
01-04 August Neste Rally Finland
22-25 August ADAC Rally Germany
12-15 September Rally Turkey
03-06 October Wales Rally GB
24-27 October Rally Spain
14-17 November Kennards Hire Rally Australia