Kris Meeke feels his podium on Rally Finland is even more special than those taken in Monte Carlo and Argentina earlier this year.
Meeke ran in the top-three throughout the four-days in Jyvaskyla, setting top-five times in every single test in his Citroen DS3 WRC car, including winning SS7 on Friday.
He also overhauled Sebastien Ogier and took second at the end of day two, and while he couldn't stay ahead of the 2013 World Rally Champion on Saturday, he was still very encouraged by the result and his pace.
“I'm delighted to be on the podium on one of the biggest events in the championship. I was on the podium in Monte Carlo and in Argentina, but this one feels more special – it feels like I've earned it,” Meeke explained.
“I wasn't gifted this, we got it with good speed. Jari-Matta [Latvala - event winner], when he's on form… we all know his speed. To be close to him, with my experience, I'm very, very happy.
“Yesterday we were ahead of Seb after two days [too]. We held on in the morning [on Saturday], but when we dinked the front-right and got a big vibration, we lost three or four seconds to Seb and then he got back in front in Himos where we had a big moment and I lost another five seconds.
“At that point, to think about catching another 10 seconds would have been a bit much for me. I came here wanting a strong, consistent weekend and we have done that – that's the most important [thing].”
“I only have a one-year contract,” he added, “and I need to finish to get the contract [renewed] for next year. In that position you never open yourself 100 per cent to the road, but I felt really free in the car and it was happening quite simply.
“I was chatting to Jari on the road section and he said if you try hard on these stages, the time disappears; you have to rely on the feeling and letting that feeling come to you. Even today we were able to let it come to us, even though we weren't defending third place. This gives us good confidence going into the second half of the season.”
Meeke's co-driver Paul Nagle meanwhile believes they have taken a “big step forward”.
“In Monte Carlo, it was a difficult rally. We weren't flat out and we needed to be clever and drive on our own pace,” he continued. “In Argentina we were in a good position after day one and after that we had to drive very slowly for the next two days.
“Here, from the first corner, we were on the pace and then we were second or third fastest – I think it was only two times that we were out of the top three. And we were able to continue all weekend. It's a great satisfaction to get close to these boys. It's building.
“Okay, there was a blip in Portugal, but this has been coming even since Mexico, Sardinia and Poland. It takes time, it's not going to happen overnight. This is a big step forward this weekend.”
Citroen deputy team principal Marek Nawarecki was also very pleased with Meeke's form: “Kris produced a superb performance, combining consistency and speed. He managed to make the most of the experience acquired in 2013 and the pre-rally testing,” he noted.