He battled very hard to hold the tears back and keep it together, but overcome with emotion, Kris Meeke simply couldn’t speak to the thronging press as he stepped from his Citroen DS3 at the end of the second run through the spectacular El Condor stage. With a mature, controlled drive through the final stage on Sunday he had just won Rally Argentina by 18.1 seconds. His first World Rally Championship win. Eventually after stepping away and taking a moment to compose himself he simply said ‘This one’s for Colin’.
It has been 13 years since Britain has had a driver on the top step of the WRC podium. Back in 2002 it was Kris’s mentor and hero Colin McRae standing higher than everyone else in Kenya. The 2015 edition of Rally Argentina was the sort of event that Colin would have excelled at: a really rough rally where pure speed also had to be tempered with an exquisite understanding of just how hard it was possible to push the car. To breaking point but no further.
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Meeke has always had the blistering speed to win a rally but, some have understandably questioned his ability to bring the car home. Yet he’s still relatively inexperienced in WRC. Despite being 35 years of age, this is only his second full season in the top flight. Nonetheless, having crashed in the first three rallies of 2015 many were questioning more than ever whether he would ever get a car across the line in first place. Promising a full reset after the last rally in Mexico, he delivered handsomely in Argentina and with the monkey off his back, hopefully many more victories will now follow. It must be a huge relief to Citroen and Yves Matton as well. They have kept the faith with Meeke through thick and thin, trusting in his incredible natural speed, and now he has delivered a first victory for the French team since Sebastian Loeb left two years ago.
Some naysayers might try to point to the mechanical issues that the dominant VWs had in South America. Fuel injector problems scuppered Ogier’s chances in only the second stage of the rally and Latvala eventually succumbed to the same woes in the penultimate stage. But look back at the shakedown times and you’ll see that Meeke and Ogier were tied fastest. Meeke certainly had the speed this weekend.
And let’s not forget the other very brave man in that victorious DS3. It was the first WRC victory for Meeke’s co-driver Paul Nagle, too. The man from Kerry has been in the car with Kris both during the Mini rallies and since 2014 at Citroen. The co-driver is absolutely integral to the speed of a WRC car and vital in helping a driver through a rally, so he absolutely deserves the limelight too.
Then there was Elfyn Evans. As if one British driver on the podium wasn’t enough, Evans chose Argentina to score his maiden WRC Podium with his co-driver Daniel Barritt. Nearly a decade younger than Meeke, he also drove a very mature rally and survived what sounded like a last minute engine scare in the final stage as he an ailing Fiesta across the line. It was the first time since Rally New Zealand in 2001with McRae and Burns that there have been two Brits on the podium.
We’ll leave the last word to Meeke though: ‘Everything was fine until we got the end of the last stage. Once we had crossed the line, I was overcome with emotions. It’ll take time for it to really sink in. I didn’t start the rally aiming to fight for the win. I just wanted to have an error-free rally. The seven-week break [since Rally Mexico] really helped me. From the shakedown onwards, I felt full of confidence… I have to thank Yves Matton, who believed in me. He gave me a great opportunity and he has been supportive throughout. This is just the first step in me thanking him for that support. I hope there will be others.’
Below you can see the video of when we had a ride with Kris Meeke in his Citroen DS3R WRC car and then got to drive it.