Portugal countdown: rally route
Spectacular Porto street stage introduced
The Citroën Racing driver's last event was February's Rally Sweden, and while he did complete the recce of the following rounds in Mexico and Argentina, the bulk of his recent driving has been on private test roads, working on the development of the all-new World Rally Car he will drive in 2017.
After seven days of testing the significantly more powerful car, Meeke drove his 2016-spec DS 3 WRC last Sunday (15 May) to prepare for his first gravel round of the season.
“I’m pleased to be back in a competitive environment. I was starting to miss it!" said Meeke, who finished fourth in Portugal last year.
"I really like the rally. Last year, we all had to get to grips with the new course, with some very enjoyable roads. This year, the first challenge for me will be to get back into the swing of things with the car."
Meeke hopes to be "fighting at the front" this week, but warned that the missed events and development focus on next year's car could make that difficult.
"You have to be realistic. We still have a good car, but there are no more upgrades, whereas our rivals are still working hard to improve," he said.
"I’ll be aiming to have an error-free rally and we’ll see where that puts us in the final standings. I know my starting position should help me. That’s just the way the regulations work, but it shouldn’t really bother anyone given that I’m not fighting for the championship this year.”
Joining Meeke at the Abu Dhabi Total WRT in Portugal will be Stéphane Lefebvre and Khalid Al Qassimi.