Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle brought the curtain down on their season with a solid but frustrating fifth on Wales Rally GB. There was no doubt that the pairing would have liked to have given the Citroen DS3 WRC a more spectacular send off. However, all weekend, the crew struggled with poor grip and an unfavourable road position.
Three days earlier, the outlook for the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team had been much brighter. In dry and mild conditions, Meeke and countryman Craig Breen featured at the sharp end of the shakedown times. Breen went third quickest, whilst Meeke recorded the second fastest time. However, when the competition started on Friday proper, both drivers had days to forget.
An exasperated Meeke made it clear that he couldn’t match the times of the top runners, despite extracting everything from the car. Whilst Breen rolled out of an encouraging sixth place after nudging a wheel on bank. Kris lamented: “We weren’t expecting the conditions to be so difficult, with a lot of rain and fog. We also know that it’s in this type of situation where the lack of development on the car tends to show the most. I feel that I did my best and I enjoyed driving out there today, even though I was bit frustrated when I saw my times at the end of the stages.”
There was little in the way of respite for Kris Meeke on day two. Any hope of a fightback disappeared when the Citroen picked up two slow punctures on successive stages. The absence of a midday service meant that Meeke had to manage the car through the rest of the loop on his remaining four tyres. Consolidation and a respectable finish were now the main aim.
The third and final leg contained six short blasts through the North Wales forests. A more favourable road position enabled Meeke and Nagle to record the second fastest time on the classic Clocaenog; by far and away their best stage result from the weekend.
Wales Rally GB was the swansong for the venerable Citroen DS3 WRC. Next year, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle along with Craig Breen and Scott Martin will spearhead the challenge of the returning Citroën Racing team, as the French manufacturer makes a return to the Championship.
Kris said: “We’ve had a fantastic season. It was very important for me to keep competing in rallies, looking ahead to 2017. Yes, we won two rallies in Portugal and in Finland, but we also had a very high level of performance in Monte-Carlo, Sweden and Corsica. I did my best here in Wales and I’m pleased with my performance, given the conditions. It’s the end of a very special period for me, as the last three seasons have enabled me to secure my place at the highest level. But above all, I can’t wait to get started next season!”