WRC: Meeke expects 2017 title shot

Kris Meeke thinks his 2016 mix of rallying and testing with Citroen will make him a realistic World Rally Championship title contender in 2017-’18.Meeke has signed a three-year deal to develop then compete with Citroen’s C3 WRC. He will use a DS 3 WRC on the first two rounds of this year’s championship and then up to six more of the remaining 12 events. In between, he will focus on development work with the new car.
Kris Meeke
Kris Meeke

The Northern Irishman believes that structure will make him better placed for the first year of the new rules era in 2017 than those who are contesting the full – controversially congested – ’16 schedule will also working on new cars.

“Look at the schedule from August to November,” said Meeke. “You’re not going to have time to draw breath if you’re competing in the whole championship – and that’s just working on the rallies. Trying to do any testing would be very, very difficult.

“That’s another reason why I’m even more happy with what we’ve got for next year. We have the ideal scenario in that we have the freedom to test and time to test and we have the rallies there to keep us sharp as well. I guess the proof will be in the pudding, but I’m pretty happy with it.”

He sees no reason why he cannot mount his first title challenge when Citroen returns in earnest.

“There’s no question – the world championship has to be the target,” said Meeke. “I have everything in place now. This is the chance I’ve been waiting for.

“When we come to the start of 2017, I have no doubt we’re going to be ready for Volkswagen. Don’t forget, there were a load of contributing factors to VW success. When their juggernaut arrived, Citroen was just moving its focus to WTCC and the rally car essentially free-wheeled for a couple of years. That combined with [Sebastien] Loeb retiring from rallying and me arriving with zero experience made it hard for us.”

Meeke admitted the last two years had been a rollercoaster of emotions as he fought to establish himself at Citroen and in rallying’s top flight.

“I always knew I could show the team what I could do,” he said. “Yes, I fell flat on my face a couple of times and I’ll not deny I came close to losing the dream as well.

“It’s taken me some time, but I’ve got what I always wanted.”