Kris Meeke believes only a world title can exceed the delight he felt by winning Neste Rally Finland on Sunday.
He became the first Briton to win the Finnish classic, regarded as the WRC’s most specialised round, and only the sixth non-Nordic driver to do so in the event’s 65-year history after smashing local hero Jari-Matti Latvala’s hopes of a third straight success.
“I don’t think it will get much better than this in terms of rally wins. It’s my goal to try to win the championship but I think we’ve done something special and it will take a few days to sink in,” he told wrc.com.
“It’s something a bit crazy. Colin McRae did some special things here and Richard Burns came close many, many times. When you dream you hope it can become reality some day but I never suspected I could do it in this fashion. To take on Jari-Matti in his own back yard and win like this is special.”
After building a lead, Meeke stamped his authority on the rally with a stunning performance in Saturday morning’s Ouninpohja stage. The legendary 33km test is full of flat out jumps and regarded as the sport’s ultimate challenge, and Meeke distanced Latvala by more than 13sec.
That performance demoralised Latvala and Meeke acknowledged it was the point at which he gained control of the event.
“I really did something good to put the result in my hands,” he said. “Driving on the road section to Ouninpohja I wasn’t confident that we could take time out of Jari-Matti. Last year I thought I did a near-perfect stage and he took 6sec from me. I remembered that and knew I had to do something better.
“When I came over the finish line I knew it was a good stage. I thought if he beats me I’ll be disappointed but I didn’t expect the margin to be that much.”