Yves Matton insists that Andreas Mikkelsen’s arrival is not a threat to Kris Meeke’s place in Citroen. But it’s also pointed out the French team came back to the World Rally Championship to win races. The performance in the first 2017 six rounds is far from that – the victory in Mexico was more of an exception than the start of a positive trend.
Right now Kris Meeke is ninth in the overall standings with 27 points. He took 25 of them for his Mexico win, while performance in the other rounds was far from good.
In Monte Carlo the British driver broke his C3 WRC’s suspension. After returning by Rally2 he retired because of an ordinary traffic accident. During the second round in Sweden he fell in a snow-filled ditch, lost eight minutes to get back on the road, ultimately finishing 12th. That was the only other points-scoring finish for Meeke except Mexico, where he won but again with a lot of drama. At the very end of the third 2017 WRC event Kris slid off and went on a crazy excursion in a spectators car park. His advantage was still big enough to win the event.
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Then came Tour de Corse where Meeke’s new-found confidence was betrayed by a leak of the lubrication system. In Argentina he rolled twice and the second time was especially nasty. The result in Portugal was 18th after another broken suspension due to a hit in a concrete block.
Kris Meeke is ninth in the overall standings with 27 points. He took 25 of them for his Mexico win
The final score for these six events is 1 win, 1 retirement after a technical problem and four – after crashes, some of which really serious. That is why Kris Meeke needs most of all a clean race. Rally Italia Sardegna is one of the toughest WRC events and he simply must finish, especially after Mikkelsen’s arrival.
“The slightest mistake can prove very costly for the drivers, given that there are so many rocks alongside the Sardinian roads!”, Citroen’s technical director Laurent Fregosi said.
Kris Meeke himself comments that he is fully focused on getting back on the positive trend from Mexico and France (before the technical issue).
“As we didn’t compete in Sardinia last year, we’re going to have to refamiliarise ourselves with the rally”, he said.
“The stages are technically difficult and slippery, so your driving needs to be incredibly precise, especially when the road is narrow. From a pure racing point of view, it isn’t necessarily that enjoyable to drive on this type of surface, but we’ll try hard to have a solid race.”
Meeke added that Andreas’ presence in the team is a good thing as “he brings valuable experience and he has the potential to win rallies. We’ll work together to ensure Citroen wins.”
But he should be careful as the wording in Citroen’s press release after Portugal was kind of conspicuous: “Kris ended the rally just behind Khalid Al Qassimi. The Abu Dhabi driver was making his first competitive appearance in the Citroen C3 WRC.”
A well performing Mikkelsen and a really consistent Craig Breen might as well be a threat.
The Norwegian is trying to return to WRC ever since Volkswagen announced their sudden withdrawal at the end of 2016. He got participations in 2017 events with Skoda but in WRC2. Still, Andreas was 7th in the overall classification twice (in Monte Carlo and Tour de Corse), while in Portugal hit a stone a few kilometers into the power stage and retired. He made a test with Citroen, but the team is cautious in its expectations.
“The roads used during the test were very different to those we’ll see in Sardinia, but it gave me a good idea of the potential of the Citroën C3 WRC”, Mikkelsen commented.
“With the downforce and the power of the engine, the feeling in the car was good. It’s an impressive piece of machinery. We started to work on the set-up in order to adapt it to my driving style. I have no idea where we’ll be in relation to the other crews. We’ll have a favourable starting position for the opening leg. But the standard is so high in the WRC at the moment that we won’t be taking anything for granted. We’ll do our best on this tough event.”