Colin McRae protege, Kris Meeke is one of Britain's rising rallying stars and he finished third in the Junior World Rally Championship [JWRC] this season. Here, talking exclusively to Crash.net, he reflects on his year - and reveals what he will need to do in 2006 in order to make sure he continues to go forward...

Q:
Kris, the season has now come to an end now. How do you feel your year has gone?

Kris Meeke:
To sum it up, it has been a fantastic experience being involved with Citroen - they are such a professional team. The year started off very well in Monte Carlo, we had victory there in the first round of the championship.

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But since then - and I have to hold my hands up - I have made a few mistakes, a few costly errors, at important times. We've definitely shown this year we have the pace to lead on every surface and to be fastest, but I just haven't been consistent enough to win the championship.

We ended up third and my team-mate, Dani won the championship, which was good for Citroen obviously, but it is a little disappointing from my point of view. Performance wise this has been my best year. I think we had over 35 fastest times in the Junior WRC over seven events and on every surface we've proven we had the speed. But as I said before, we made some small mistakes at important times and that has proved very costly in terms of the overall championship.

Q:
The last two events of the year - in Corsica and Spain - were on asphalt and your team-mate, Daniel Sola did very well to clinch the title. From your point of view though the results weren't quite there you must be disappointed with the way those two events went to finish the season?

KM:
I have to look back earlier in the season when we had the advantage on Dani on the gravel events. We had a comfortable lead in Finland and I had made a mistake on the recce in the pace notes and that was a victory that went begging. Dani was there to step in and take the victory.

I always knew it would be tough going into last three rallies on asphalt against Dani, who has been brought up since an early age on asphalt - go karting and driving in the Spanish championship for many years.

So going into Corsica I was quite comfortable to take a second place there and see what we could do in Catalunya. Unfortunately I made a mistake on the second morning on the first stage out. I got caught on a slow section going from second gear to first gear. I locked up on a bit of gravel and it was over in a flash. I can't say anything more than that. I'd love to make excuses - I'd love to do everything! But I simply got caught out and made a mistake. We broke a steering arm and had to stop in the stage and change it losing near 19 minutes, which put us completely out of contention.

It was quite ironic, because two stages later Dani had an engine problem which put him back to third, which in hindsight could have left us with a comfortable victory in Corsica. So, if that had happened, going into the last round in Catalunya then whoever won the rally would have won the championship. It is all 'ifs and buts' though and at the end of the day it didn't happen. I have only myself to blame.

But as I said before, it has been fantastic. The stages times have been there on asphalt. When I have had a good stage we can match Dani. When I have mega stage I can beat him. But he is more consistent. He has that technique [on asphalt] refined and knows exactly what he has to do all the time. I was having to push to the limit to try and keep with him on asphalt due to my errors earlier in the season.

Q:
How important has it been for your career to have got yourself involved with a top team like Citroen during this past year?

KM:
As I said before, it is fantastic being involved with a team as professional as Citroen and there approach is so methodical, when they go to do something they do it right. It has been incredible to be involved in that environment.

But it's my first ever season involved with a proper manufacturer backed team. It had been a bit of a struggle up to then. We'd always been involved with the private Opel and it was very difficult as it was funded by private means. The budget was never there to develop the car and we were fighting against other manufacturer teams, where they had all the testing and everything.

Definitely the opportunity was there to win the championship this year and unfortunately I didn't do it. But for sure it's a big, big step forward in my career. I am hopeful we can generate something for next year to stay with Citroen.

Q:
2005 also saw you have your first outing in a World Rally Car on the Wales Rally GB. Unfortunately circumstances overshadowed that event for you, but how do you feel you're first outing in a full WRC car went?

KM:
It was an opportunity that came late in the day. At the closing date of the entries we managed to get everyone together and organised to get a Subaru World Rally Car out for Rally GB. Obviously it was a privately funded thing and testing was very limited. We had only 80 kilometres in the car before the rally. To be honest it was a bit of a culture shock stepping from screaming C2 S1600 into a four wheel drive turbo charged car - quite a change! But you have to be able to adapt and everything went quite well. I think to finish in the top ten on my first time in four wheel drive car at WRC level, while I was very happy with how it went and I'm confident I proved a point.

Q:
That event also saw you have a chance to go head-to-head with your mentor, Colin McRae, was it enjoyable battling with him?

KM:
It was quite ironic the way it all worked out. I have been involved with Colin now for three and a half years. It was ironic Colin's comeback event was my first time in a WRC car - and it was even more ironic that our stage times were so similar.

For me I was trying not to look at the times at all. I had a job to do and I couldn't make a mistake on my first time out. I had to take time to learn because I had such limited testing. It was strange after one complete day to finish only one second behind Colin on the Friday evening. Then going into the Saturday morning, I think, on the first four stages, there was less than a second between us on every stage and so it was a very good experience.

To be fighting with Colin on my first time ever in a four wheel drive WRC car was... I had to pinch myself now and then. But that's the level of world rallying and that's where I want to be. You have to put yourself in there and do it. I am just glad I had the opportunity to get out there and do it.

Q:
You said you are hoping to be back with Citroen for 2006 in the Junior WRC, but 2007 of course, Citroen are coming back into the 'senior' WRC as manufacturer team, are you hoping to impress next season and then maybe be in the running for one of seats alongside Sebastien Loeb?

KM:
For sure I am trying to impress all the time. We've seen this year it just didn't happen for me. But for me Citroen is the number one team in the championship and the atmosphere is like being involved in a family. Everyone is supportive of everyone else and they want to win. They are very methodical and put everything in place so that everyone knows where they have to be to win events and championships. I would be stupid to go anywhere else. For me they are the number one team and that is where I want to stay. But we will just have to see what happens over the close season to see what opportunities are available. Fingers crossed we can stay with Citroen, but as I say no decision has been made yet.

Q:
With you and obviously Guy Wilks up near the top of the Junior WRC, you must hope that the future of British rallying on the world stage is in safe hands?

KM: [laughs] It is hard to say the future of British rallying in the world championship is in safe hands. There are so many guys out there fighting for seats and you just have to put yourself in there. You have to prove you deserve the opportunity more than the other guy. This year on speed I maybe deserved an opportunity but on consistency I haven't.

Fortunately for Citroen, my team-mate was both fast and consistent and he won the championship.

I just hope I get another opportunity next year - but I'd rather be sitting here now though thinking how do I get the consistency, than thinking how do I get the speed. We've proven quick enough to win every rally we get to. I just have to find the consistency - that's the most important thing for me.