Colin McRae protege Kris Meeke begins the defence of his Intercontinental Rally Championship in Monte Carlo tomorrow admitting luck will play a major part in how he performs in the French snow.
Tomorrow’s opening leg includes two loops of two long stages — SS1/3 Burzet-Lachamp Raphael at 17 miles and SS2/4 St Pierreville-Antraigues at 28 miles — and the Peugeot driver knows tyre choice is going to be crucial.
“We’re just going to have to take a big, big gamble when it comes to choosing our tyres,” the Dungannon driver, who will again pilot his Peugeot 207 S2000 this year, said today.
“We’ve got to make our tyre decision by 11am on Wednesday, but that’s two hours before we start the day’s long stage; and the short stage, which we tackle first, is probably about 50% snow, while the longer one has a lot less snow because it’s lower.
“And we’ve got to do both stages on the same set of tyres. It’s really a bit of a lottery which, quite often, the Monte always comes down to if you get conditions like this.”
Today’s (Wed) problems are compounded by the fact the Burzet test rises to 1410 metres and is the second highest stage on the event.
“It’s fair to say this rally is pretty much all about getting the tyre choice absolutely perfect,” Meeke continued. “Get one wrong and you can be out of the running in no time.”
Meeke — who won four times last season and was only denied victory in the season finale, the inaugural RallyScotland on a minor technical infringement — faces a tough test in Monte Carlo with there former World Rally Championship drivers competing.
Finnish ace Mikko Hirvonen will debut the all-new Ford Fiesta S2000, while French duo Sebastien Ogier and Stephane Sarrazin, will each driving Peugeots identical to Meeke’s. Darlington’s Guy Wilks, Skoda Fabia S2000
“We’ve three world class drivers out there with their mind set on nothing but winning the Monte Carlo Rally,” Meeke explained, “but I’m already thinking about the championship.
“Obviously, this is an event I would dearly love to win, but not at any cost. If it means, as we enter the final few stages on Friday night, that I have to back off and drive for championship points, then that’s what I’ll do.”
The season opener, which got underway with a ceremonial start this evening, will see the competitors tackle 15 stages over the next three days before finishing Monte Carlo late on Friday night.