Analysis: Why Kris Meeke's second WRC win is the win that matters

Kris Meeke's Rally of Portugal win wasn't his first in the World Rally Championship, but it's the most significant for the rest of his career says DAVID EVANS

Analysis: Why Kris Meeke's second WRC win is the win that matters

One win. One win's nice. But it's only one. Did you earn it? Did you luck into it? Could you do it again?

Those kind of questions can nag away at the one-timers. And the longer it takes for one to become two, the louder the voice gets in your head.

No professional sportsman's ever going to admit to such thoughts. In public, they're constantly on the verge of the next win.

Sitting at home a few months after his US Open win in 2011, Rory McIlroy probably thought he'd better bag another, just to be sure. Same for Andy Murray after he landed the first big one in New York a year later.

Psychology's a funny thing. You win. Then what? You wonder how long until the next one. Please tell me there'll be another one...

Henri Toivonen thought his moment was never coming. His second win took five years to come.

Kris Meeke didn't have to wait that long. But he did have those thoughts.

"You do wonder," Meeke says. "'Was it a fluke? Could I do it again?'

"Nothing beats that first win, the feeling of release is incredible, but in many ways it's the second win that really gets the monkey off your back.

"Starting the Rally of Portugal, there were six drivers around who had won just one rally [Andreas Mikkelsen, Mads Ostberg, Dani Sordo, Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville] and I was one of them; the fluke thing is in the back of your mind."

Such thoughts have been dispelled now and dispelled in pretty definitive fashion.

Citroen Racing director Yves Matton wasted no time in talking about the next level Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle's second WRC success had carried them too.

This was a proper, big boy grown-up win.

We all remember Argentina 2015. The nerves, the desperation to talk about anything other than what might happen on Sunday afternoon. I avoided Matton all weekend.

Too many times before, it had all gone wrong when Meeke was on the brink of his breakthrough.

One stage from the end in Finland, 2013; final morning a year later in Germany to name but two.

In Carlos Paz last year, nobody said a word.

Largely because, at the time, being brutal, nobody really believed Meeke could bring it home and finish the job he'd started.

Why would we believe? At WRC level he'd never really shown that he could. Yes, there had been some handy results, but when the pressure was cranked up, too often he had been found wanting.

That was one of the marked changes from Argentina; from one to two wins in Portugal last week.

OK, fate wasn't tempted; I still didn't make a start on my report until he was well across the line (learned my lesson in Catalunya last year when Ogier crashed on the final stage...), but this time nobody doubted. At all.

"This win was, in many ways, a bigger one because of the way we controlled it," Meeke says.

"The first one's so difficult to manage.

"In Argentina last year I arrived at the end of the first stage with a 30-second lead and thought 'Bloody hell, I've got to manage this for the next three days'.

"In Portugal last week, we just got on with it and drove the rally.

"I felt a lot more in control than in Argentina.

"For me personally, this is a big step. To win in this way is another level, another step."

The message was the same from the other side of the car. Nagle saw a different driver when he looked left last week.

"It all came very naturally," says the Killarney co-driver. "And that was a tough rally - there were a lot of wheels off, a lot of punctures, but for Kris, there wasn't a moment. Not a wheel out of place.

"The feeling in the car was calm, it was a great atmosphere, he's shown he's matured again with this one."

For Nagle, win number two makes him number one at home; Ronan McNamee's the only other Irish co-driver to have won at WRC level (the 1989 RAC with Pentti Airikkala).

Meeke's second win moves him out of the 33-strong one-time WRC winners' club and into a more exclusive collection of nine drivers who have doubled that digit.

He won't be stopping there.

shares
comments
VW says wildcard winners like Meeke or Loeb 'devalue' WRC
Previous article

VW says wildcard winners like Meeke or Loeb 'devalue' WRC

Next article

WRC Rally Portugal clerk defends handling of Paddon's crash fire

WRC Rally Portugal clerk defends handling of Paddon's crash fire
How Rovanpera tamed a wild Safari Rally Plus

How Rovanpera tamed a wild Safari Rally

The Safari Rally acted as a brutal test of driver and car resolve as multiple retirements opened the path for a historic Toyota 1-2-3-4 triumph, headed by star Kalle Rovanpera. But keeping things clean was only half of the challenge, as a well-timed charge when conditions worsened allowed the Finn to take control

WRC
13 h
How Tanak turned the tables to deliver Hyundai a timely WRC triumph Plus

How Tanak turned the tables to deliver Hyundai a timely WRC triumph

The 2019 champion has been a bit-part player recently, but Ott Tanak ended a 15-month drought in fine style with a dominant win in Sardinia. On a weekend when championship leader Kalle Rovanpera struggled with cleaning the road, his Hyundai rival has made his belated arrival into the title race and given cause for those predicting a walkover from the Toyota star to pause

WRC
Jun 6, 2022
How Rovanpera overcame rallying royalty in Portugal to extend his WRC lead Plus

How Rovanpera overcame rallying royalty in Portugal to extend his WRC lead

Although the Rally Portugal entry list featured World Rally Championship royalty in Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier, victory was secured by rallying's rising star in Kalle Rovanpera. Here's the story of his 2022 hat-trick, as his key rivals faltered among the gravel and asphalt ahead of them

WRC
May 23, 2022
The former WRC star playing the unsung hero role for Rovanpera Plus

The former WRC star playing the unsung hero role for Rovanpera

Kalle Rovanpera’s 2022 World Rally Championship displays have been spectacular, with the Toyota driver benefitting from a secret weapon in his crew to win two of the opening three rallies. But while the former challenger to Sebastien Loeb won’t take credit for his fellow Finn's performances, a key bond has been formed which could prove key to Rovanpera’s title charge

WRC
Apr 29, 2022
How Rovanpera's Croatia turnaround sent a message to his WRC rivals Plus

How Rovanpera's Croatia turnaround sent a message to his WRC rivals

After a dominating Rally Croatia, a wrong tyre choice on the final day looked to have undone all Kalle Rovanpera's hard work and left him with a mountain to climb heading into the power stage. That he emerged the winner all the same has surely quelled any lingering doubts that the Finn is the man to beat in the 2022 WRC

WRC
Apr 25, 2022
How M-Sport's faith in Loubet led to a WRC reprieve after a dismal 2021 Plus

How M-Sport's faith in Loubet led to a WRC reprieve after a dismal 2021

It's fair to say 2021 was a year to forget for Pierre-Louis Loubet. A maiden full World Rally Championship season offered hope but soon turned into a nightmare that ended in hospital, after being hit by a car in a road traffic accident. Now handed a lifeline by M-Sport, the Frenchman is desperate to rebuild his career

WRC
Apr 20, 2022
Why WRC mechanics deserve more respect Plus

Why WRC mechanics deserve more respect

The drivers get the glare of attention, but it’s the mechanics who are key to the operation of any World Rally Championship car. Autosport donned a set of overalls and joined M-Sport on a Belgian national rally event to get an inside look into the trials and tribulations of a rally mechanic

WRC
Apr 17, 2022
The African McRae aiming to become a WRC pioneer Plus

The African McRae aiming to become a WRC pioneer

Taking his first step into the Junior World Rally Championship category, McRae Kimathi - named after 1995 world champion Colin - found himself in the unfamiliar climes of Sweden's snow and ice. Having impressed, Kimathi hopes to blaze a trail to the top level of WRC and help other African drivers to step onto the ladder

WRC
Mar 8, 2022