Kris Meeke

KrisMeeke.com

Kris on his cars

What he's driven - and what he thought of it

09 November 2013

Kris has driven many of the most influential rally cars of the past 30 years – and played a part in developing more than a few of them himself.

With formative years spent in the height of the Super 1600 era, Kris used some of the fastest front-wheel-drive cars in the WRC. But he has also dabbled in classic machinery, including Group B and Group 4 cars, and

Outside of rallying, Kris has tried everything from superkarts to single-seater sports cars. Here are his thoughts on the cars he’s driven over the years.

Everything else

Bentley Continental GT 2012 Rally GB - pic by Roy Dempster

“This was one of Top Gear’s crazy features, and for some reason they phoned me up about it! The idea was to do 28km of the famous Sweet Lamb Hafren stage of Rally GB, at the same time as the actual event, and see how our time would compare. I raised an eyebrow when they got down to the detail and told me about the car, because it was on standard road car tyres.

“Let me tell you, when you hit a patch of mud at maybe 120mph and you’re on road tyres, well… there were two passengers in the car at some points! The Bentley was an incredible machine, but this was a totally alien environment for it. Well over two tonnes, over 600bhp, tiptronic gearbox, but in a Welsh forest. It was good fun on the day, and I was glad to come out of it unscathed. It made a good bit of TV, I thought.”

Citroen DS3 R3 Citroen DS3 R3 - pic by Citroen UK

“This is one of Citroen’s customer-level cars: turbocharged and front-wheel drive. It’s can be a bit of a handful, I have to say – but then, putting a turbocharged engine through the front wheels is always going to be tricky. It’s a car that requires a certain driving style and quite an intelligent approach to how you drive, if you’re going to get the traction and get the best out of it.

“The rest of the package is very strong, with good suspension. It’s a very good car for young drivers to get experience of stages and perhaps a first turbocharged competition car.”

“I also acted as a co-driver in this car for the TV programme ‘League of their Own’ (above). We did a stage with some celebrities at Walter’s Arena and it was, er, entertaining from the other seat!”

Crossle sports car 2010 Cultra Hillclimb - pic by Roy Dempster

“Now we’re really getting into the one-off appearances! I had an opportunity to do some demo runs at Cultra, a hillclimb at the Ulster Folk & Transport museum on the outskirts of Belfast, and I drove both a Mk2 Ford Escort and this Crossle.

“Hillclimbing’s a special discipline, and of course this is much more of a racing car than a rally car, but I was still very proud to drive it because Crossle is a home-grown marque from Northern Ireland, and it has produced some fabulous racing cars over the years. It was a special day, for sure; I’d love to have explored a bit more of that car’s potential, in a more open area, because the course at Cultra was pretty tight, I recall.”

Ford Escort Mk2 2007 Lurgan Park Rally - pic by Roy Dempster

“I’ve done a weird selection of events in the ‘classic’ rally car, the Mk2 Escort – everything from the Killarney Historic Rally to the Colin McRae Stages and a couple of outings at Lurgan Park in Northern Ireland.

“The moment you sit behind the wheel of an Escort, you can see why it’s a legendary rally car that’s still really popular today. The inherent set-up of the chassis is just perfect for sliding, using the power to steer the car, and driving a well-sorted one of these is an incredible, raw experience. It’s nice to let your hair down ever so often in one of these, just to remind you of how it used to be, back in the day.”

MG Metro 6R4

“There’s a good YouTube clip of this, actually [above]. I was asked if I’d do a demo run in a Metro 6R4 on the Donegal Town stage of Rally Ireland in 2009, and it was absolute pleasure to drive. The car was owned by Rallyschool Ireland down in Monaghan and I had just a short chance to test it there before doing my stuff in front of the spectators, but it was really special.

“This car, I have to say, is one of my favourites: raw, such a buzz to drive, the engine, the noise, everything about it is fantastic. I’d love to have the chance to drive one of these again sometime, perhaps on the loose. One box that I’d like to tick again, look at it that way.”

Peugeot 208 T16

Peugeot 208 R5 test - pic by Peugeot UK

“This is one of the new R5 cars. R5 is designed to replace Super 2000, so it’ll be the front-line category in the European Championship, and also the basis of ‘WRC2’ from 2014. So it’s an important type of car.

“In my role as PSA (Peugeot-Citroen) test driver in 2013 I’ve taken on a fair bit of the development work of the 208 T16, and I have to say that I’m a big fan of this set of regulations. It needs to be a budget formula and it’s a huge challenge for the engineers, because they’re forced to use a lot of road car components, while still trying to make a competitive rally car.

“I gave the car its debut at Ypres 2013 and really enjoyed it. It’s everything a Super 2000 is, but you have the torque from the turbocharger so it’s a lot more user-friendly. It’s the next generation and I see a huge future for R5. It’s also great to see the ‘T16’ name back, so many years after the 205 T16; it was a real privilege for me to be the first to drive the new T16 in public.

“As an aside to this, I’ve also been involved in the R5 version of the Citroen DS3, which is built in the same factory and uses a lot of the same components. We’re earlier in the development of that but again, it’s another car for the future.”

Subaru Impreza 555

2002 Galloway Hills Rally - pic by Roy Dempster

“I was thrilled to get a chance to drive this Subaru on the Galloway Hills Rally way back in 2001, because the Group A Impreza 555 was one of the main cars of my childhood. I can remember cheering on Colin McRae when he drove it, so it was special to get behind the wheel myself – and of course, the pure sound of that flat-four engine was fantastic.

“In fact, even now I would still like the opportunity to drive one of those cars again; it holds such a special place in my childhood. It was a good result, too, in my first time in a four-wheel-drive car – and I went back the following year and won it again.”

Superkart

2012 Kirkistown - pic by Roy Dempster

“This is a little toy that I still have in the garage, actually. It looks like a mini-Formula One car, but it’s one of those gearbox superkarts. It has a five-speed gearbox and about 68bhp, and it’s a totally crazy thing to drive. Your eyes are sitting out on stalks all the time – completely crazy!

“If memory serves me right then we set a new outright lap record around Nutts Corner race track in Northern Ireland with this thing, and this type of kart is pretty much capable of setting outright lap records at most tracks in the UK. It’s a good thing for asphalt practice, getting the reactions up to speed on that surface.”

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