ANALYSIS: Why Meeke's second win is the game-changer

ANALYSIS: Why Meeke's second win is the game-changer

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ANALYSIS: Why Meeke's second win is the game-changer

One win. One win’s nice. But it’s only one. Did you earn it? Did you luck into it? Could you do it again?

Those kind of questions can nag away at the one-timers. And the longer it takes for one to become two, the louder the voice gets in your head.

No professional sportsman’s ever going to admit to such thoughts. In public, they’re constantly on the verge of the next win.

Sitting at home a few months after his US Open win in 2011, Rory McIlroy probably thought he’d better bag another, just to be sure. Same for Andy Murray after he landed the first big one in New York a year later.

Psychology’s a funny thing. You win. Then what? You wonder how long until the next one. Please tell me there’ll be another one…

Henri Toivonen thought his moment was never coming. His second win took five years to come.

Kris Meeke didn’t have to wait that long. But he did have those thoughts.

“You do wonder,” Meeke says. “‘Was it a fluke? Could I do it again?’

“Nothing beats that first win, the feeling of release is incredible, but in many ways it’s the second win that really gets the monkey off your back.

“Starting the Rally of Portugal, there were six drivers around who had won just one rally [Andreas Mikkelsen, Mads Ostberg, Dani Sordo, Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville] and I was one of them; the fluke thing is in the back of your mind.”

Such thoughts have been dispelled now and dispelled in pretty definitive fashion.

Citroen Racing director Yves Matton wasted no time in talking about the next level Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle’s second WRC success had carried them too.

This was a proper, big boy grown-up win.

We all remember Argentina 2015. The nerves, the desperation to talk about anything other than what might happen on Sunday afternoon. I avoided Matton all weekend.

Too many times before, it had all gone wrong when Meeke was on the brink of his breakthrough.

One stage from the end in Finland, 2013; final morning a year later in Germany to name but two.

In Carlos Paz last year, nobody said a word.

Largely because, at the time, being brutal, nobody really believed Meeke could bring it home and finish the job he’d started.

Why would we believe? At WRC level he’d never really shown that he could. Yes, there had been some handy results, but when the pressure was cranked up, too often he had been found wanting.

That was one of the marked changes from Argentina; from one to two wins in Portugal last week.

OK, fate wasn’t tempted; I still didn’t make a start on my report until he was well across the line (learned my lesson in Catalunya last year…), but this time nobody doubted. At all.

“This win was, in many ways, a bigger one because of the way we controlled it,” Meeke says.

“The first one’s so difficult to manage.

“In Argentina last year I arrived at the end of the first stage with a 30-second lead and thought ‘Bloody hell, I’ve got to manage this for the next three days’.

“In Portugal last week, we just got on with it and drove the rally.

“I felt a lot more in control than in Argentina.

“For me personally, this is a big step. To win in this way is another level, another step.”

The message was the same from the other side of the car. Nagle saw a different driver when he looked left last week.

“It all came very naturally,” says the Killarney co-driver. “And that was a tough rally – there were a lot of wheels off, a lot of punctures, but for Kris, there wasn’t a moment. Not a wheel out of place.

“The feeling in the car was calm, it was a great atmosphere, he’s shown he’s matured again with this one.”

For Nagle, win number two makes him number one at home; Ronan McNamee’s the only other Irish co-driver to have won at WRC level (the 1989 RAC with Pentti Airikkala).

Meeke’s second win moves him out of the 33-strong one-time WRC winners’ club and into a more exclusive collection of nine drivers who have doubled that digit.

He won’t be stopping there.

Originally on Autosport.com

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