With Kris Meeke’s World Rally Championship future up in the air, could a future in Nitro Rallycross be a possibility for the rapid former Toyota, Citroën and Mini works driver?
Meeke has appeared four times so far this season, finally taking a maiden podium in the second half of the Phoenix double-header, delivering on the earth-shattering pace he’s shown all year. Pace that has ultimately always been met with horrendous luck.
“I think that’s rallycross, isn’t it? It’s a roller coaster,” Meeke told DirtFish. “We got put on the back foot on Saturday evening with that poor decision from the stewards, and the problem is that sets you back” – Meeke was eliminated from qualifying after receiving a penalty for contact with Travis Pastrana in the battle bracket.
“Sunday morning we started mid-pack, I got punted, my driveshaft broke, that was a DNF in the heat. Then in the semifinal, starting at the back, my propshaft broke, so that was a DNF in the semifinal.
“So I went into the last chance qualifier starting at the back of the grid and managed to win the race, I don’t know how that happened. That got seventh place on the grid in the final, got punted in the first corner, spun, then Bakkerud rolled.
“But then my steering was completely out. I was lining up at the start line with my steering like at basically 60-70 degrees, so I had to do the whole race with the steering wheel like this but we had good pace, I was able to close the gap to the guys in front. Once everybody pulled into the joker I was able to gap the guys in front and we were able to get Travis by having a really good joker.”
Meeke’s summary of the weekend reads like something of a horror story, but he’s recalling all of it with a smile on his face and a medal round his neck. Because of all that, he was able to secure Xite Energy Racing’s first-ever Nitro Rallycross podium.
“What a weekend! This circuit is just incredible,” he beamed.
“In rallycross you have to sort of wing it a bit, but [I’m] just so happy to bring something for the team. The guys have worked so hard, so yeah, let’s hope we can do a few more.”
Speaking of a few more, Meeke was only supposed to contest the UK, Sweden, and (currently postponed) Saudi Arabia rounds this season, but with Jenson Button opting to sit out of Phoenix after withdrawing from the California round owning to his (self-professed) lack of experience with loose surfaces and gap jumps, Meeke had to dash Stateside.
“Flights were booked on Sunday, and I left on Tuesday morning,” he said. “So it was very late in the day but it was exciting to get the opportunity to come here, especially to do one of these US tracks.”
Next up for Nitro Rallycross is a brace of winter rounds in Canada, and with Button’s future in the series currently up in the air, Meeke’s open to continuing in the #62 car.
“We’ll see, there’s a bit of a gap now, a couple of months, but yeah that sounds intriguing. These cars, on ice with seriously studded tires, yeah could be something interesting,” he said.
And as for a full-time run in future seasons?
“We’ll see how the championship progresses, but if they do more tracks like this, I’ll certainly come back.”