19 October 2014
WRC: I’m getting stronger and stronger, warns Meeke
Citroen's Kris Meeke believes that he is better armed to go hunting for a podium on the tricky mixed-surface Rally de Espana after a strong second half in WRC 2014.
Repeated visits to the World Rally Championship podium in the second half of the 2014 season have boosted Kris Meeke's confidence as he heads into potentially the trickiest event of the year.
As the championship's only mixed-surface round, Rally de España provides the crews and teams with a unique test, with one leg on gravel followed by two days on tarmac, but Meeke - who is reportedly close to agreeing a new deal with Citroen - feels that he is better equipped to deal with the challenge having gained experience from every round of this year's championship.
After finishing on the podium in Monte Carlo in January, the Briton then took advantage of each of the following events to develop his knowledge of the WRC. Since the end of July, he has demonstrated his speed on all surfaces with third places in Finland, Australia and France.
“I feel I'm getting stronger and stronger,” he commented, reflecting on the second half of the 2014 season, “Every world championship driver needs time to feel comfortable and to be able to show their potential and the experience I have acquired is beginning to show. I'm managing to anticipate much more. My speed is more natural, and I'm able to go faster without taking as many risks as I did in the past.”
As has been the case at a lot of rounds this year, Meeke will have to learn about the Spanish stages. Although he has contested the rally six times, he is less familiar with the current mixed-surface itinerary, having only experienced it once before in 2011.
“The stages on tarmac are pretty similar to those that I already know, but it's true that I still need to get to grips with the gravel roads,” he admitted, “I'll be doing my very best and we know it'll be very close at the front. We just have to keep edging closer to first place.”
Since it first appeared on the World Rally Championship calendar in 1991, Rally de España has been won by all of Citroën Racing's models, with only VW's 2013 emergence breaking a run of eight straight victories for the French marque. Since 2010, however, the event has presented a unique assessment of the teams' ability to cope with both kinds of surface found in the WRC.
“It's a rather specific challenge,” insists Citroën Racing team principal Yves Matton, “The main difficulty lies in converting our DS3 WRCs at the end of day one. This rally requires specific preparations and the demands in terms logistics are more significant here. Each of the drivers must also be capable of adapting to this change in road surface. We work on the parts that need to be changed and the set-up, but a large part of the adaptation comes down to the crews.”
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