After his impressive pace on his rallycross debut at Lydden Hill, many were expecting big things from Kris Meeke in the remainder of his partial rallycross campaign in Nitro Rallycross.
Sadly for the five-time World Rally winner, round two at Strängnäs Motorstadion in Sweden hasn’t quite gone to plan. In fact, it hasn’t gone at all.
Since the pre-event test on Friday, Meeke’s FC1-X has been plagued by a mystery issue, one that the Xite Energy Racing team and car developers Olsbergs MSE and QEV Technologies have so far struggled to diagnose – even despite a near-total overhaul of the car’s under-the-skin components.
“I’m not sure where to start to be honest,” Xite Energy Racing team manager Ian Phillipson told DirtFish. “Literally yesterday, the first time he ran it, [the car] had a problem. Some warnings came up and [we] started chasing what the issues were there.
“QEV considered it to be a battery issue, so the guys changed the battery last night – that’s about a four-hour job. At the same time we changed one of the inverters… also changed the DC/DC converter at the same time.”
It was hoped that the substantial switches would cure the issue. Alas, it didn’t, leaving Meeke struggling to get going in free practice.
The team then went on to change the ECU, the high voltage cabling, and some of the low voltage loom too, but the issues persisted – so much so that the team opted to take the car off-site to do constant straight-line running in a bid to get to the bottom of why the car would not put the power down.
“Clearly we’re chasing an electric gremlin, no doubt it’s probably something very annoying and very small, but it’s just enough to cripple the car every time we run it,” Phillipson said.
It’s been a case of a process of elimination to isolate it, even to the extent of swapping inverters overIan Phillipson
One theory is that the issue, whatever it is, could be lasting damage from Meeke’s heavy shunt in the final of round one at Lydden Hill.
“We’ve been trying to work that out because ultimately, although it looked spectacular bodywork-wise, and we couldn’t continue because one of the front uprights had been bent, that was about the only mechanical damage,” Phillipson explained.
“So the impact, while it was obviously a big bang, didn’t seem to be anything beyond the testing ability of what the car should achieve. So it’s always difficult to say definitively, particularly with this issue.”
Another theory could be the new steering upgrades applied to each car this weekend – a new steering loom, steering motor, and steering column – but again, that thought proved to be another false dawn.
“We have, as part of the testing, disconnected all of the steering loom, so it’s been driven without any of the electrical steering, because it’s only straight line, but then it still had the fault, so we don’t think it’s that,” Phillipson said.
“It’s been a case of a process of elimination to isolate it, even to the extent of swapping inverters over so we’re running the motors off the different inverters just to see if that’s to do with it.”
The issue has been massively troublesome for Xite, to the extent that should the team still not have the problem diagnosed and resolved by Sunday morning, it has been given dispensation to switch cars to allow Meeke to rejoin the field at the heat race stage, despite missing all of qualifying.
“We’ve spoken to the championship, we’ve spoken to Andreas [Eriksson, Olsbergs owner] and they would allow us to run because all that Kris had to do was do one lap of practice, which he managed, so we would be allowed to continue.
“The championship is really keen for us to work it, so yeah we can swap the car under the circumstances, very exceptional circumstances, but clearly we’d like to run our own car but Andreas has offered to let us run the other car if we absolutely need to.”