Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke clinched his first ever World Rally Championship (WRC) win in Argentina today, when he brought his Citroen DS3 WRC home 18.1 seconds ahead of his team-mate, Mads Østberg. By doing so, Meeke became the first British driver in thirteen years to claim victory on the world stage, following in the footsteps of his close friend and mentor, Colin McRae.
Meeke had led the event from Stage 2 on Friday morning. He built a commanding lead, which he then defended resolutely, managing his own pace as well as the condition of his car. Whilst his close rivals had to contend with a range mechanical issues, Meeke was able to preserve the Citroen DS3 and watch as the wheels literally came off the drivers around him.
Prior to the Argentinean round, the form which saw Meeke end the 2014 season so strongly, seemed to have deserted him. Citroen denied there was any pressure on Meeke. But Meeke himself, expressed frustration with his performances and acknowledged that he needed to improve. Therefore, it was no surprise that despite taking an early lead, Meeke did not want to get drawn on the possibility of a win; he stated that the need to finish the rally was foremost in his mind.
Saturday started ominously, with a brief off-road excursion on the opening test. However, Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle quickly settled into a comfortable rhythm at the top of the leader board, choosing to let the other drivers try and attack their substantial lead. After the first run through the longest stage of the rally, fellow Citroen driver Østberg had cut Meeke’s lead in half, yet the Dungannon man did not panic.
Nor did he panic when a fleeting issue with a sensor, on the final stage of Leg 2, caused his DS3 to momentarily lose power. Despite the high drama, Meeke still ended the day on top. All that stood between Meeke and glory were two passes over the challenging lunar-esque landscape of the stage known as El Condor. Or as Kris put it “a Sunday drive.”
With a lead of nearly 40 seconds tucked under his belt, a calculated and controlled Meeke wrapped up victory with a measured jaunt through the 32km final leg. The joy and emotion was clear for all to see as he bounded out of the car at the stop line and jumped onto the roof of the car to celebrate with Paul Nagle. “This one is for Colin.” said Meeke – a nod to to the man who had helped him on his world rallying journey, all those years ago.
Pictures courtesy of Citroen Racing