Wednesday | 21 Dec 2016

Meeke: 'you have to be on your game every metre'

Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver Kris Meeke has predicted that driver skill will be more important than ever next season as competitors aim to extract the maximum performance from their 2017-specification World Rally Cars.

Meeke was speaking at the launch of the French manufacturer's new C3 WRC challenger in Abu Dhabi today. The car has been built to the FIA's new and exciting technical regulations that allow greater aerodynamic freedom, more engine power and the re-introduction of active centre differentials.

The cars are expected to be more spectacular on the stages than their predecessors and Meeke believes the most successful driver at the end of the season will be the person that has been able to tame their car the most.

"The 2017 car is an exciting machine, it’s quite a big step from 2016," the three-time world rally winner said. "We know the regulation changes but when you drive them in anger, they’re a different beast; you really have to be on your game, every metre, to keep on top of them.

"For me, the human element will come to the front even more in 2017, because in places it’s going to be difficult to extract the potential of these cars. At times they are so, so fast."

Meeke has led the development of Citroën's C3 WRC and he's excited about how the car will perform when Rallye Monte-Carlo gets underway next month (19-22 January).

But the Ulsterman, who recently completed a Rallye Monte-Carlo test (see video below), is aware that a successful programme of pre-season testing isn't a guarantee that the C3 WRC will have the measure of its rivals from M-Sport, Hyundai and Toyota when the competitive action gets underway.

He said: "We’ve been pushing hard in testing but you can never really tell until you get to competition and go up against other drivers and cars. I’m happy that we’ve done good work but there’s still always that thought in your mind, that we don’t know where we are in reference with our rivals."

Team boss Yves Matton stated at the car's launch that he expects the C3 WRC to be a winner in 2017 and, if that prediction is borne out, he said a lot of the credit will go to Meeke and his skills in developing new cars.

He said: "We needed a leader, who had plenty of technical experience and knowledge in terms of development. Kris has been developing racing cars for the PSA Group for more than ten years. He is a trained engineer and that means he has been able to provide detailed analysis at certain points. He is undoubtedly one of the main reasons we were able to stick to the schedule and meet our goals with the C3 WRC."

While Meeke will lead Citroën's WRC charge next season, the team also confirmed in Abu Dhabi that it will run two C3s in Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico next season, before expanding the line-up to three or four cars from May onwards.

In Monte Carlo specifically, Meeke will be joined in a C3 WRC by Stephane Lefebvre, while Craig Breen will drive a DS 3 WRC. The Frenchman and Irishman will both be in latest-specification C3s by mid-season, along with Citroën Racing’s fourth driver, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi.

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