Citroen's WRC return: What troubled Meeke on Rally Sweden?

Kris Meeke was fairly quiet through last weekend's Rally Sweden. He was letting his wayward Citroen World Rally Car do his talking for him. The conversation wasn't exactly engaging

Citroen's WRC return: What troubled Meeke on Rally Sweden?

With one stage remaining, the Northern Irishman found his voice. Suddenly, midway through the second run of Likenas on Sunday, he had plenty to say.

"I'm not fucking driving this," said last year's Rally Finland winner.

He'd just saved another moment, just managed the persuade the C3 WRC beneath him not to swap ends. Again.

Meeke's co-driver Paul Nagle offered the only words a co-driver can offer at that moment.

"Just get it through, that's all we have to do," offered the voice from Killarney.

With barely a moment's hesitation, Meeke disagreed.

"No fucking way, I'm not driving this."

After a few more f-bombs and a request for assistance from the big man upstairs (God, not Yves Matton), Meeke put the thing in road mode and pottered through.

Meeke's torture wasn't quite complete. He was then faced with an hour or so in a regroup waiting to go into the powerstage run at Torsby.

Worse still, the regroup was media central.

Meeke parked the car up and walked away from everybody, sitting some distance from the machine he'd waited his entire career to drive.

But he couldn't sit still for long, partly because it was enormously cold and partly because he was doing a more than passable impression of a caged tiger.

Nagle caught my eye and offered an expression that made it clear that going to talk to him would be the journalistic equivalent of taking a great big stick and shoving it firmly up a tiger's arse.

The start of the 2017 World Rally Championship has been a disaster for Citroen.

We could dress it up and talk about Monte-specific set-up issues and the rest of the season looking much rosier.

Or we could face facts: right now, Citroen's C3 WRC is being blown out of the water by M-Sport's Ford, the Hyundai and the Toyota Yaris WRC.

It's the last one that'll sting the most for Meeke. Had he shaken hands with Tommi Makinen just over a year ago, it could have been him sitting where Rally Sweden victor Jari-Matti Latvala was.

Instead, Meeke had the worst seat in the house. And he was watching a horror movie being played out before him.

Yes, he went off the road on Saturday, but have a look at the onboards. The car, as Nagle pointed out at the top of the conversation detailed above, was all over the place.

And it was exactly the same for Craig Breen. Both C3s were later on the throttle and entering pretty much every corner with more steering input than any of their rivals.

This wasn't how it was supposed to be. Citroen's year out was supposed to be to prepare the returning giant for life back at the top of world rallying's tree.

The C3 looks to be trailing the Fiesta in terms of engine and it's not even in the same ballpark as an i20 through the twisty bits.

But it was Makinen and his men and women working from an entirely modest facility in central Finland that truly tipped this WRC titan into the shade in Sweden.

Big question is: are we talking quick fix or fundamental issue?

Having seen the car running so well in testing and with Meeke's input, it's almost impossible to imagine this is more than another rally-specific glitch.

Citroen has vast experience of the WRC, not to mention 17 titles in 10 years (nine drivers' awards for Sebastien Loeb and eight makes' crowns) and if anybody knows how to fix this, it's Matton and his team.

Citroen and Meeke need to reset for Mexico. The Dungannon driver remains one of the best in the history of rallying (a Finland win guarantees you of that) and those four walls in Versailles contain genuine world-class engineering ability.

Stay on the line caller... And anyway, I thought we weren't drawing any conclusions until after Mexico.

shares
comments
Toyota's WRC win made possible by my changes, Latvala believes

Previous article

Toyota's WRC win made possible by my changes, Latvala believes

Next article

Sebastien Ogier frustrated with 'stupid' Rally Sweden WRC error

Sebastien Ogier frustrated with 'stupid' Rally Sweden WRC error
Load comments
How Finland’s newest rally hero made WRC history in Estonia Plus

How Finland’s newest rally hero made WRC history in Estonia

Kalle Rovanpera broke a decade-old record in becoming the World Rally Championship's youngest-ever winner in a truly dominant performance on Estonia's fast gravel roads. Staving off the challenge of Hyundai's Craig Breen, his committed drive showed a maturity beyond his 20 years that gives Toyota's post-Ogier era a far brighter complexion

WRC
Jul 19, 2021
How WRC's new Safari adventure ended with a familiar tale Plus

How WRC's new Safari adventure ended with a familiar tale

The World Rally Championship’s delayed return to the Safari Rally was always set throw up some surprises, but aside from a spirited showing by Thierry Neuville it became another painful event for Hyundai in 2021. Once again it was Sebastien Ogier who took full advantage as he completed a stunning comeback drive

WRC
Jun 28, 2021
Remembering Colin McRae’s final WRC win Plus

Remembering Colin McRae’s final WRC win

The Safari Rally returns to the World Rally Championship this weekend for the first time since 2002 - when crowd favourite Colin McRae set aside the maximum attack style for which he was renowned to deliver a textbook third win

WRC
Jun 23, 2021
How Hyundai's broken record gave Toyota a special Sardinia 1-2 Plus

How Hyundai's broken record gave Toyota a special Sardinia 1-2

For the second WRC gravel rally in a row, a promising Friday for Hyundai turned into desolation as Toyota gratefully picked up the pieces. This time it was championship leader Sebastien Ogier who took full advantage after Ott Tanak and Dani Sordo retired to score a memorable victory, having swept the road on the first two days

WRC
Jun 7, 2021
How Hyundai's latest self-destruction handed Evans Portugal victory Plus

How Hyundai's latest self-destruction handed Evans Portugal victory

At one point Hyundai held the top three positions in Portugal, but when trouble struck the Korean marque's two leading chargers, a grateful Elfyn Evans was on hand to see off Hyundai third man Dani Sordo and become the third different winner in four rallies

WRC
May 24, 2021
Why the success of AVB's WRC debut won't be defined on the stages Plus

Why the success of AVB's WRC debut won't be defined on the stages

Three years after a Dakar Rally crash resulted in him being airlifted to hospital, Andre Villas-Boas is preparing to make his debut on his home round of the World Rally Championship later this month. His goals for the event are modest, but the same cannot be said for the charities he plans to promote where his true impact could be felt

WRC
May 13, 2021
Why there's no easy fix for Hyundai's operational Achilles Heel Plus

Why there's no easy fix for Hyundai's operational Achilles Heel

Hyundai Motorsport boss Andrea Adamo was vocal in his criticism of his team's tyre choices on Rally Croatia and declared that he "had better move my ass and solve it". Doing so will be vital to getting Hyundai's 2021 WRC title hopes back on track, but finding the root of the problem won't be the work of a moment

WRC
Apr 28, 2021
How Ogier held on after a shock bump in the road to triumph in Croatia Plus

How Ogier held on after a shock bump in the road to triumph in Croatia

Sebastien Ogier was already in an incredibly tight fight at Rally Croatia before a surprise collision with public road traffic at the start of the final day. But the defending champion held his nerve to take a narrow victory and create further World Rally Championship history

WRC
Apr 26, 2021