Born in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, in 1979, Kris Meeke hails from a rallying family – his father Sydney was a rally car preparation ace. Meeke Jr began his competition career in 2000, after winning a find-a-driver competition with Peugeot. He made his WRC debut in Rally Great Britain in 2002 and has since tackled 66 events. During that time he also won the Intercontinental Rally Challenge for Peugeot, before landing a works Citroen contract in 2013. This year, he became only the fourth Briton to win a WRC round, with victory in Argentina. He finished the season with second on Wales Rally GB.
Finishing second on my home round of the World Championship, Wales Rally GB, is a really special thing. And to be the first British driver to stand on the podium in the event since Richard Burns finished third – to win the title – in 2001 is amazing.
Along with my first win, in Argentina back in April, it makes me very proud. Soon after I won, it was pointed out that I’m only the fourth British driver, along with Roger Clark, Colin McRae and Burnsie, to win a World Championship rally since it all started in 1973.
That’s incredible! But what that also shows is the lack of British drivers at the top level. It’s special to be one of so few but I don’t want it to stop with my win in Argentina and my podium in Wales – I want to keep winning and being the best. That’s why I’m here.
Do I feel pressure as the leading Brit – when it’s been so long without regular home victories like we had with Colin and Richard? My whole career’s been about pressure and feeling like every rally was your last. In the Junior World Championship, and even in the IRC, I didn’t know if I was going to be doing the whole season. The same was true with my two outings in a World Rally Car with Citroën in Finland and Australia in 2013. I just didn’t know what was next. Pressure’s mostly a mind thing, but if someone can show me pressure, I’ll have a whole bag of it!
The truth is, it’s very difficult to win at the moment. Volkswagen have won 34 of their 39 WRC events, which is staggering. All I can do is try to get as close as possible to them. In Argentina they all had problems and I won, but in Wales I took the fight to [Sebastien] Ogier and beat [Andreas] Mikkelsen.
Looking back on the rally, the conditions were tricky but I was fine with that. The heavy rain-washed the road so there was actually quite a lot of grip – unlike when there’s that slime that sits on the gravel like in 2014. That was like driving on ice.
‘Sometimes it doesn’t feel real. Signing autographs in the service parks is funny – it doesn’t feel like it’s me. I remember getting Carlos Sainz’s autograph in Catalunya in the mid-1990s when I was 15.’
I was really happy with the speed in the car. [Co-driver] Paul [Nagle] and I clicked, the pacenotes were great and we were in the zone, if you like. When you’re in the right mode, the risk becomes less, no matter what the speed. I wasn’t overanalysing my driving – thinking about where to brake and things like that. That’s when mistakes creep in. And it was great to be back in Gartheiniog and Dyfi – two stages I tackled in my very first rally in 2000.
I really appreciate all the support we got out on the stages and in the service park at Deeside. I hope I gave everyone the result they wanted!
Overall, the 2015 season has been up and down. Obviously the win in Argentina was great, but the mistakes in Finland and Germany tore the heart out of the year. Without those, I’d have been fighting for third in the points. I had to really knuckle down for the last four rallies. With third in Australia, fourth in Corsica, fifth in Catalunya and second in Wales I outscored everyone, including Ogier. So that was good!
I’m in a great position and I’m very fortunate, but I want more. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real. Signing autographs in the service parks is funny – it doesn’t feel like it’s me. I remember getting Carlos Sainz’s autograph in Catalunya in the mid-1990s when I was 15.
I honestly don’t yet know what I’ll be doing next year. I hope my dream can continue in 2016 and beyond. It’s my life, I love it, I’m quite good at it and want to win more rallies.
Photography courtesy of Citroen and Ben Miles