jasoncraig 32 0384by Jason Craig
Guild Associate member and 2012 MSA Motor Sport Journalist of the Year

meeke nagle

Some people say papers and broadcasters are only interested in motorsport when things go wrong – like the terrible loss of rally driver Simon McKinley at this weekend's Clare Motor Club hillclimb.

But there was good news this weekend too. At Rally Argentina Kris Meeke became the first British driver to win a round of the World Rally Championship in more than a decade. Ironically, the last person to do that was his mentor Colin McRae, back in 2002.

I am hoping the events in Argentina might be a force for good, not just for Citroën driver  Meeke and his co-driver Paul Nagle (celebrating above), but the British and Irish press as a whole.

meeke

Meeke wins for McRae

“Everything was fine until we got the end of the last stage. Once we had crossed the line, I was overcome with emotions. It’ll take time for it to really sink in. I didn’t start the rally aiming to fight for the win. I just wanted to have an error-free rally. The seven-week break really helped me. From the shakedown onwards, I felt full of confidence. It was a really difficult race but the DS 3 WRC is a solid and reliable car. All the other guys had problems and we secured a one-two finish. Mads had a fantastic rally as well. I have to thank Yves Matton, who believed in me. He gave me a great opportunity and he has been supportive throughout. This is just the first step in me thanking him for that support. I hope there will be others. This one is for Colin McRae.”  

Lots of positive things have already been reported and said about Meeke’s maiden victory, but the one that stood out for me was made by the man of the moment. Asked at the post-event press conference how he felt after years of trying, the Ulsterman said: “I feel like a 21-year-old again.” And just in case you were wondering, Meeke is actually a happily married 35-year-old.

The significance of the comment is that winning has rejuvenated Meeke and his love for a sport that has been less than kind to him. Going by the news feeds that followed his popular win on Sunday afternoon it’s having the same effect on the media.

Argentina was truly memorable for British motorsport because as Meeke celebrated on the top step of the podium with a tear in his eye, the young Welshman Elfyn Evans was beside him. The M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver secured his first ever top-three finish in the series in South America.

New Zealand ’01 was the last time a pair of Brits shared the podium. Good things come in twos.

On the back of these fantastic achievements my hope now is that the national press has turned a corner as far as their interests in rallying go.