Following a difficult start to this year’s Rallye Monte-Carlo, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team showed great strength of character and determination to move up the standings and score important points in the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships.
The strength of all great teams is the ability to stick together and produce results, even when the going gets tough. With the 17 points scored by Kris Meeke in the drivers’ championship, the 18 points added to the team’s tally in the manufacturers’ championship and the Power Stage win, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT proved its strength of character in Monaco, after a frustrating start to the rally.
Unfortunately, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ran into trouble on Thursday evening’s opening leg, which was held after nightfall, on the daunting Thoard-Sisteron stage (36.69km), where the snow covering a 3km section near the top of the Col de Fontbelle caught out many of the crews. After dropping just under two minutes on this first stage, their rally was already set to head in a different direction than planned.
Worse was to come for the team, as Craig Breen and Scott Martin were also hit by poor luck on Friday morning. A stone lodged itself in one of the C3 WRC’s wheel rims and damaged the brake calliper’s bleed nipple. This meant that they gradually lost the brakes on the next three stages of the loop and despite their attempts to perform repairs, fell back from seventh to tenth place with the rapid loss of three minutes.
This stroke of bad luck hit them hard because it left them forced to open the road on Saturday, literally tracing a line in the snow for the crews behind to follow. In conditions like these, it’s difficult not to lose momentum.
Especially as this edition of the Rallye Monte-Carlo turned out to be one of the toughest in recent years, with a wide variety of grip conditions on the roads used in all four legs.
However, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT remained focused on the job in hand and on its targets. The Red Army was never wrong footed when it came to tyre choice. Similarly, the setup of Kris Meeke’s C3 WRC was gradually
fine-tuned, allowing him to grow in confidence and move back up into fifth overall, whilst Craig Breen took advantage of any opportunities to remind everyone of his talent and pace. For example, he set a third fastest time, just 2.2s off the leading pace, on Saturday’s final stage, and another on the second pass of the iconic Col de Turini.
The team eventually saw its persistence and determination rewarded when Kris Meeke claimed victory on the final stage and moved up to fourth overall, successfully holding off repeated attacks from those behind him.
With 26 stage wins secured in 2017, at nine of the 13 rounds on the World Championship calendar, the Citroën C3 WRC has already shown it possesses genuine pace on several occasions. However, it had never previously won the Power Stage, the closing speed test at each rally for which bonus points are awarded (five for first place, four for second, and so on until one point for fifth place).
So that’s another milestone crossed off the list.
The result also shows that real progress has been made during the winter, because there are many drivers who really go for it on the Power Stage attempting to pick up extra points, especially those who have nothing left to race for in the overall standings.
Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle proved to be the quickest between La Cabanette and the Col de Braus, on 14km of uneven, technical and narrow roads. With fourth place overall taken on the final stage, and the championship points they claimed as a result, the two men were able to secure a richly deserved outcome, which rewarded the team for not hesitating to redouble their efforts during the off season.
Images – Citroen Racing