It’s been 50 years since a Northern Irish driver won the Monte Carlo Rally and whilst the hopes and expectations of a nation lie squarely on his shoulders, Kris Meeke is very realistic about his chances this weekend.
Rallying was very different then when Paddy Hopkirk and Henry Liddon scored an unexpected victory in their Mini Cooper S, and whilst the cars are very different now, the challenge remains.
This will be Kris Meeke’s sixth outing on the Monte: “My favourite memory goes back to 2005. It was my first rally in a Citroën; I was competing in the Junior WRC in a C2 Super 1600. The conditions were difficult, as ever, with snow and ice. I remember that year in particular, as I took the JWRC category win!”
“Understanding the road – being able to read the surface conditions and reacting accordingly – is the best way to do well here. It is pointless aiming for a particular result. The goal is to be consistent, not make any mistakes and focus on the main priority, which is to make it to the finish. If everything goes well, your efforts will be rewarded by a good result.”
“Testing allowed me to get used to the handling of the DS3 WRC in particularly demanding conditions. On the snow or ice, it’s essential to be confident in yourself and in the car. The work we did helped me to learn and improve. Now we’ll just have to wait and see what sort of weather we get in the race.”
As for his team mate, Mads Østberg recalled his first outing on the rally last year, particularly the legendary Col du Turini stages: “I thought I had lost several minutes, because I was struggling to find any grip. I was fighting in the car, but had the impression I was totally powerless. At the end of the stage, I was so frustrated that I took off my helmet and put my head in my hands … And then someone told me that I had actually just set the fastest time so far. I was ahead of all of the leaders!”
“Monte-Carlo is a real challenge for the first race of the season. I haven’t done a lot of miles in the car as yet, but I had a good feeling in testing. I thought that I fared pretty well with slick tyres on the snow, although it was sometimes more a question of survival than of racing… In any case, if I could choose the weather, I’d ask for as much snow as possible!”
The rally gets underway on Thursday.