Ahead of next weekend's Rally Finland, Kris Meeke spent last week testing the 2017 Citroen WRC machine on tarmac, but he's going to have to get back into gravel mode for this coming weekend. The Abu Dhabi Total WRT team entered three cars in Finland before the World series takes time out for its Summer hols!
As in Sweden, the three crews will be Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle, Craig Breen/Scott Martin and Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson.
Having emerged victorious at Rally Portugal, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle but absent in Sardinia and Poland, the duo will aim to build up their experience and hone their turn of speed with the 2017 season in their sights. In eight appearances at Rally Finland, Kris’s best result was a third place in 2014.
Having finished 8th in Sweden and 7th in Poland, Craig Breen and Scott Martin will continue their programme with Abu Dhabi Total WRT.
Looking ahead to Finland, Kris said: “Finland is a unique moment in the WRC season. I have excellent memories here, such as my first race with Citroën Racing in 2013 and my podium finish the year after. Every year, I take pleasure, above all, in driving on the most amazing routes in the world. I’m not competing in every race this season, but I was determined that Finland should be part of my programme. It’s a rally that often comes down to just a few tenths of a second and it will provide a good opportunity for me to work on my turn of speed. I won in Portugal, but I don’t have any particular goals. I’ll be doing my best to learn, understand and enjoy myself at the wheel. The weather forecast is for rain every day in Jyväskylä, which will no doubt have an influence on performances depending on the starting orders. But once again, it doesn’t really matter to me, as I don’t have any special aims this season. I think it’s going to be a big challenge from reconnaissance on. There are a lot of new special stages, including Ouninpohja, which we are going to be taking on in the opposite direction from usual. We’ll have to forget our usual markers and approach that sector as if it were totally new.”
Looking back on the past week, Kris was excited with the progress the team is making with their 2017 world series challenger: “It’s exciting to be driving the WRC on asphalt for the first time, Citroën Racing has always made really good cars for this surface and I think this will be no exception! On tarmac, you can really feel the changes introduced as a result of the new regulations, such as the higher power, the increased width, the power of the brakes… We are continuing the programme as planned and each run teaches us a little bit more. Every phase of the project is just as exciting as the last!”
In terms of the regulations, the differences between a WRC’s gravel and asphalt setups are minimal, but they are vital. “The biggest change is in the suspension,” said Citroën Racing Technical Director Laurent Fregosi: “We use lighter parts that allow us to reduce the ground clearance. The drivetrain kinematics are also adapted to the 18″ wheels. Large wheels mean we can increase brake disc diameter and use water-cooled callipers. We should also mention the lighter body protection. On the aerodynamic front, we now have the ability to adapt the lower part of the front bumper specifically for asphalt.”
“During this first session, we worked in particular on the programming of the centre differential,” explained the engineer. “The aim is to distribute power between the front and rear axles according to the situation. Obviously, the settings will be different from one surface to another. The drivers were also able to assess the effects of mechanical parameters, such as spring stiffness, the anti-roll bar and the differential. Overall, the results were positive and we know where we are at. Once again, the car’s reliability allowed us to get plenty of kilometres in.”
(Thanks to Citroen Racing for the pics!)