On the eve of his first factory drive in the World Rally Championship, Mini's Kris Meeke talks about his prospects
Q. How does it feel to be back on a WRC event?
Chris Meeke: It's good. After so long away from competition, seven months, I'm really pleased to be back on a rally again.
Q. How did the recce go?
CM: The recce went well. There are some bits and pieces I remember from last year, but there's also quite a lot which is completely new to me. There was some rain on Sunday and Monday, which made some parts of the recce quite wet. I think the road will dry out by the time we get there in competition, though. The only downside is the shakedown stage, which is not representative at all. It's really narrow with some massive rocks – you're not going to be able to do anything with the car there. For me, it's stupid to use this kind of road where there's no room to do anything.
Q. You've done a lot of early running with the Mini in Sardinia, will that help?
CM: It's never a bad thing to be driving on the island where you'll be competing, but at the same time, the testing we did over here was quite early development testing – it wasn't final setup work with the car. In regard to the event setup, I'm very happy with where we are with the car, but there's still that big question of where we'll be after the first stage.
Q. I guess you're probably keener to know than most...
CM: I keep talking about the multi-million dollar question which people keep asking me, but I'm asking it just as much! It's not long until we find out now.
Q. The last scheduled test in Wales was canceled, did that hinder your preparations?
CM: No. It was simply due to a parts availability thing. In fairness, that test was just about running a rally distance to simulate the competition, with 20-minute service halts and getting the boys to change the gearbox and things like that – replicating rally conditions. And we managed to do that at Warwick.
Q. What's the feeling like in the team? I mean, Mini's back...
CM: You can definitely feel the excitement is building and building. There's a lot of anticipation from the engineers, they're pretty nervous and keen to know where we're going to be. But for me, I just want to get started now. We've done all the nostalgia, but it's time to get down to business now.
Q. Can you treat this like just another rally?
CM: Yes. I have my routine and I'm not going to change that at all. I've been very comfortable in my approach to things. That approach has worked in the past and even though we're at the highest level of the sport, there's nothing radically different in the WRC. I'm still getting in a car and pressing the pedals. There's no point me thinking about the opposition or the other teams, it's just me and the stopwatch.
Q. Is that true?
CM: It is, yes. Don't forget, the other guys come here on the back of four rallies already this season – we haven't done any competition. As far as I'm concerned, we can only win from here because of the experience we're going to gain. Dani [Sordo] and I are not going to be getting involved in the drivers' championship and we're not going to be fighting for manufacturer points, either. Yes, we want to be competitive, but we're not going to win or lose anything on the first stage of Sardinia.
Q. How have you been received by the other teams on the recce?
CM: Well. Everybody's been asking the same questions, but everybody is pleased to see Mini in the championship. And I'm certainly pleased to be here, this is the moment I've been working toward for a very long time.
Q. And that moment's almost here...
CM: It is. The only downside so far for me is my new overalls, which are a couple of sizes too big and make me look like a Michelin Man! I'm going for the Jacques Villeneuve look this week!