Kris Meeke says his victory on Rally de Portugal proves he has taken another step in his career.
Meeke is only doing selected WRC events this year as Citroen develops its new car for 2017, but despite missing the last two rounds in Argentina and Mexico, the Briton was on fine form last weekend, winning by 29.7 seconds, having led every stage from SS2 onwards.
“It was nearly a perfect weekend, a text book performance. It's another step for me as a driver. This year is all about gathering experience and I couldn't have done any more. We'll use these rallies this year for our benefit and try to mount a title challenge next year,” Meeke said at the finish.
Asked if he will now be yearning for a little bit more of this action, he replied: “Yes. [But] as I said before the rally, I haven't been missing kilometres as I have been testing. However after three or four runs of a test stage, you know it well and anticipate it. It is not like doing a rally where you are driving to your notes on every stage. You miss the competition, so maybe absence made me a little stronger.”
“But we have to concentrate on the bigger picture,” he underlined. “Citroen are going to come back next year with a full effort behind the rally program. This result proves I have taken another step in my career, so it is exciting for the future to be part of a team like Citroen, knowing what is coming.
“We have to concentrate on the bigger picture, do our testing and do a good job to arrive with a good package. But we have to use the events that we are doing this year to keep me in rally shape and keep me sharp.”
It was Meeke's second WRC win after his maiden triumph last year in Argentina and he added he felt a lot more in control this time.
“The first win you will never take away, but it is also probably going to be your most difficult. We led from the first stage in Argentina. That was my first time leading an event by that much. It was more difficult to manage then,” he noted.
“This was a lot more simple and like anything in life, the more you do it, the easier it gets. A lot of people say the first win is a monkey off your back but I think the second one is.
“I think there were six drivers in the championship before this rally with one win. It is quite easy to call one victory a fluke, but to back it up with number two for me really is the monkey off my back. Certainly we know what to do when we get in this position again. But we have to stay realistic. We had good road position, we used it well and I never put a foot wrong and I'm really happy.”
Meanwhile, co-driver Paul Nagle reckons their performance this weekend in Portugal was their best yet.
“It never feels simple [to win]. We might have made it look simple. [But] you learn from other events – we learned from Argentina last year and even a couple of rallies on where there was pressure on to get points for the runners-up spot in the championship for Citroen. It was more relaxed today and yesterday afternoon. We did carry two spare wheels for safety, in case there was rain but it was totally in control all weekend. As Kris said, he didn't put a foot wrong all weekend,” Nagle noted.
“[And] I think without question it was our best performance to date. Argentina was special but this one was very much controlled from the middle of Friday, then Saturday morning punching - in fastest times one after the other.
“It was a very strong base for us and then, to control it up until the final stage, it was a big step for the future of our career and as I say, definitely the best performance of our rallying career so far.”