Kris Meeke is gearing up for third career outing at Rally Sweden and is anticipating some of the trickiest surface conditions he's ever faced in WRC.
The Abu Dhabi Total WRT Citroen driver crashed out of a likely rostrum result 12 months ago at the snowy Scandinavian event to eventually finish seventh and returns to Sweden this year facing a very different set of conditions.
Warm weather has seen ice and snow melt in vast volumes and has forced organisers to cancel eight stages which use public roads due to safety concerns. Running on treaded tyres, it is feared without a layer of ice the WRC cars will thrash the asphalt and make it unusable for cars and recovery vehicles.
Meeke, who battled Volkswagen Sebastien Ogier for the lead at Rallye Monte Carlo before hitting a rock which damaged his gearbox causing a cruel end to his race, expects a tricky challenge this weekend but is focusing on gaining valuable race time in the mixed conditions.
“This year, we know that the road conditions may be difficult but it's the same for everyone,” Meeke said. “Although we made an encouraging start in Monte-Carlo, I don't think we'll be able to challenge for victory again, because I still have a lot to learn on this surface. But I would be pleased if I manage to reproduce the same kind of performance as last year.”
If conditions are to change with forecasts predicting the temperature to drop at the weekend, Meeke is excited to take on the slippery surfaces to test himself as well as the Citroen DS3 WRC.
“This is one of my favourite rallies, driving in these conditions is a genuinely unique pleasure,” he explained. “To begin with, you have to force yourself to push because your body and mind are telling you that you're skidding. And yet you have to put as much power through the tyres as possible. And then the grip increases massively.
“It's a bit like driving a car with a lot of downforce, you have to push back your own limits to get the absolute maximum in terms of performance without overstepping the mark.”