Kris Meeke: 'If I didn't think I could win the championship I wouldn't be here'

Kris Meeke
Kris Meeke has won five races in his World Rally Championship career

Kris Meeke's eyes light up when he is asked the question - "Do you think you can still win the World Rally Championship?"

"If I didn't think I could win then I wouldn't be here," he responds, and how hard the Northern Irishman had to work to get to this stage.

Returning to the WRC after his abrupt sacking from Citroen last year, a move to Toyota has given Meeke a new lease of life.

Sitting fourth in the standings after five events, 2019 has seen a change in approach from Meeke, who was often labelled with a crash-happy tag.

Kris Meeke in Rally Chile
Meeke rolled his Yaris in the latest WRC round in Chile but still recovered to score points

"I've finished every rally this year and set fastest times in every event," said the Yaris driver, "I've been hit with quite a few issues such as punctures, and I made my mistake in Chile, but even with that we're still fourth in the championship.

"You have to park the issues and setbacks, that's sport. That's one of the keys to success. I still believe we can build a stronger campaign from here to the end of the year.

"If you let a little setback get to you, and I would have been guilty of that in the past, you get frustrated, try too hard and it all escalates from there.

"I manage to temper that a little bit now," he believes, "After the rally you can get a bit frustrated looking back on what could have been, but we have to move forward all the time to make sure we don't have those issues in the future."

Keeping the slippers and pipe tucked away

Although Meeke turns 40 in July, the Dungannon man still feels he is only just getting started in the WRC, even if his team-mate is the man to beat going into this weekend's Rally Potrtugal.

"Ott Tanak is a lot younger than me but he has been there seven or eighth years," said Meeke, "He's really come to the fore this year and is on an incredible level at the minute.

"I was a very late starter in the sport and my path to the world championship was quite a long one. I'm only in my fourth full season.

"I have a lot to offer and I think I can achieve a lot more, so my immediate focus is certainly on that.

Kris Meeke and Tommi Mäkinen
Meeke's relationship with Toyota team boss Tommi Mäkinen has been cited as a major factor in his new-found consistency

"The immediate future for me is driving a rally car, I want to keep that going as long as I can.

"I'm sure I'll be able to put on the slippers and pipe later in my career and look back and be happy that I gave it a go.

"If I didn't think I could win the championship I wouldn't be here. I've won quite a few rallies, I've competed with the best in the world.

"I'm still able to turn up after nine months away and set fastest times," he adds, "I was leading Rally Mexico and I really should have been on the podium quite a bit more this year.

Kris Meeke
Meeke spent nine months away from the sport after being dropped by Citroen in May 2018

"The belief is still in me that if we can get it all together, we can have a good run at it and put ourselves in contention.

"If you can get into that top three it's like a wave, you start rolling with it and it all starts to come together. I still believe I can do it and the desire is still in me to become World Rally Champion.

"The day that stops, I'll stop. I'm not there to drive around, take some wages and go home so certainly the desire is still there."

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