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GP Week : Issue 72
Top 5 rally drivers of '09 As 1 -- Petter Solberg Meeke converted me this year. Up to the end of 2008 I never really knew whether he had ultimate success inside him. The IRC title is not the ultimate title, but with Sebastien Loeb hogging the limelight it was one of the nearest opportunities to get to the top. I just could not be sure whether Meeke was able to go any further in the sport, and strangely enough it was the reaction of friends from abroad which told me I should not be so unsure. It all began at Monte Carlo, when I was talking with Marc Van Dalen, the Kronos team boss.: "Without doubt he is streets ahead of everyone else in the IRC", he said. That surprised me. Then came endearing signs from people I met at Curitiba in Brazil: "How is Miki getting on?"" strangers asked. Miki? I was curious. Biasion was not involved at all. "Yes, you know, Miki, Kris Mee - ke.." It sometimes needs that foreign touch to put things into true perspective. For them, Meeke was already champion and I had not noticed. It wasn't until I interviewed Kris in October that a lot of things fell into place -- his very special relationship with his family, his absolute and unswerving determination. Things like the risks he sensed when he took on his first ever official rally car test, when he told the team their engine was rubbish. "I really didn't know if I had wrecked my career there and then", he said. Happily he hadn't. 2 -- Kris Meeke This was classic stuff -- a driver who refused to give up, who was determined to come back to the sport which meant everything to him, and to continue sharing his world with his family, friends, fans and everybody with whom he worked. One had the feeling when Subaru walked away from the world championship that we might not have heard the last of our blonde-headed friend but really we never expected he would play such a major role as he did. Petter is the sort of person who captivates your emotions. When he has success he wants you there; when it all goes wrong he is comforted when he can share it with you. You can tell his emotions at a glance. When you have been at the top (Petter was World Champion in 2003) and seen the world below, most people would feel that it wasn't worth fighting back, but Petter is a fighter. The best thing I ever saw was on the 2003 Tour de Corse (the event which the ISC seems to be allowing to disappear) when he crashed in shakedown and his team worked solidly through the night to get the Subaru straight enough to run the next morning, which they did ... and he then won. His wife Pernilla was distraught, and asked me why things like that always happened to her Petter, I said it was because he was special and she would not have married him otherwise. Her looks could have killed. Later she admitted it was absolutely true. 50