Kris has scored a stunning second victory of 2017 after a dominant display on RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de Espana, the latest round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The Northern Irishman started the mixed-surface event determined to bounce back after a difficult summer with the Citroen C3 WRC. He and co-driver Paul Nagle set competitive times during Friday morning’s gravel stages, then increased their pace in the afternoon to put themselves in a top-three position as the event switched over to asphalt roads for the weekend.
Once the World Rally Cars moved across to the smoother surface, Kris was in a class of his own. He set fastest time on the first stage of Saturday morning and managed his pace thereafter, maintaining a solid cushion of around 13 seconds through the rest of the day.
Sunday comprised six stages – a loop of three tests, all repeated – and Kris again outlined his speed and the potential of the C3 WRC by setting fastest times on the first five of them. This was despite the two Ford Fiesta WRCs of Sebastien Ogier and Ott Tanak fighting in second and third places respectively.
Kris had little to gain from going for extra points in the event-closing Powerstage, so he eased off his pace to set second fastest time and secure victory – his fifth win at WRC level, after Argentina, Portugal, Finland and Mexico, and his first on asphalt – by 28 seconds. It was a particularly memorable moment, as Kris’s wife and daughters were present at the end of a final stage for the first time to greet the winner.
“It’s been an exceptional weekend,” said Kris. “It’s not important how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you stand up again. And I’ve had to stand up a few times now in my career. But we’ve always known the C3 WRC is good on asphalt so we stayed in a good place on Friday and then pushed on. I remember walking up the roads here 20 years ago to watch Colin McRae in 1997, and never then did I dream I’d even drive a rally car. So it’s a great feeling. “My wife doesn’t travel to the rallies very often, but it’s special for my two little girls.”
“A lot of what this team has been missing is confidence,” he said. “Some of that is my fault, and some of it is because we haven’t been as confident as we should have been on other surfaces. But now we have confidence and calmness to work. The C3 has been exceptional this weekend.”
The WRC now moves back to gravel for its closing two rounds, Rally GB and Rally Australia.
Rallye Catalunya – final positions
1 Kris Meeke (Citroen C3 WRC) 3h20m20.1s
2 Sebastien Ogier (Ford Fiesta WRC) +28.0s
3 Ott Tanak (Ford Fiesta WRC) +33.0s
4 Juho Hanninen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +54.1s
5 Mads Ostberg (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m26.2s
6 Stephane Lefevbre (Citroen C3 WRC) +2m43.0s