NEW WRC CARS A CHALLENGE TO ‘TAME THE BEAST’, SAYS MEEKE

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NEW WRC CARS A CHALLENGE TO ‘TAME THE BEAST’, SAYS MEEKE

PHOTOS: Citroën’s new WRC ‘beast’ and driver Kris Meeke (right) with co-driver Paul Nagle (Citroën pics)

BRITISH driver Kris Meeke predicts he can win world championship rallies next season if he can tame the “beast” that is his new Citroën C3 competition car.

At the C3’s unveiling in final form before the 2017 season starts on 19 January, Meeke said new-regulation World Rally Championship cars would be more exciting and spectacular and the most successful driver would be the one who had been able to tame theirs the most.

“The 2017 car is an exciting machine, it’s quite a big step from 2016,” the three-time world rally winner said.

“We know the regulation changes but when you drive them in anger, they’re a different beast; you really have to be on your game, every metre, to keep on top of them.

“For me, the human element will come to the front even more in 2017, because in places it’s going to be difficult to extract the potential of these cars. At times they are so, so fast.”

The launch of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team yesterday in Abu Dhabi – home of patron and part-time driver Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi – completed the line-up of manufacturer challengers built to the new rules allowing much more power, less weight, better traction and improved aerodynamics.

Meeke has led the C3’s development and, while excited about how the car will perform at Rallye Monte-Carlo on 19-22 January, he knows there is no guarantee it will have the measure of rivals from M-Sport (Ford), Hyundai and Toyota.

(The 2017 WRC will finish at Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the NSW Coffs Coast on 16-19 November.)

“We’ve been pushing hard in testing but you can never really tell until you get to competition and go up against other drivers and cars,” he said.

Many are predicting the 2017 championship will provide a show reminiscent of the spectacular but dangerous Group B era of the mid-1980s.

Comparing the latest regulations to those during the Group B period, Citroën team boss Yves Matton said: “The C3 WRC certainly recalls the cars that enthralled a generation of rally enthusiasts, including me. Thirty years on, fortunately everything has changed, especially in terms of safety.

“But the sense that the drivers will need to tame an aggressive, roaring beast is something that we will certainly see next season. When I saw Kris Meeke drive the car for the first time in testing, I said to myself that we had achieved our goal.

“There is an extremely spectacular side to this new generation of WRCs.”