Driving tips from Kris Meeke
Rally driving is all about you, the car and the stopwatch - and that means going as fast as you can whatever the conditions.
One thing that always shakes things up is rain, especially when you aren't expecting it. Because we are out, away from our service crew and getting to and through the stages for several hours at a time, it's not unusual to be caught out on slicks in a downpour, or wets in the baking hot sunshine, or - perhaps worst of all - on any type of tyre when its a mixture of wet, damp and dry in a single stage.
What really counts when it gets like that is experience. There's no such thing as a slippy road - there are hundreds of different types of slippy roads, and you have to approach them all differently.
An asphalt road can be wet, but if it's abrasive then the grip is almost the same as in the dry. Then you can get mirrored asphalt, which is like ice to drive on when it gets wet. Then there's every condition in between - muddy, soaked, wet, damp... you get the picture.
In those conditions it's no good waiting until you are in a corner to feel the grip, as by then it's too late and you'll soon crash. You have to use experience to read the road, and then set the car up for what you expect to happen. Gaining that knowledge experience takes years - and probably quite a few bent body panels.
It's like a sixth sense, but one you have to really work at. You constantly look up the road to see what level of grip you expect, and then your brain uses your experience to adapt your driving accordingly.
The secret to a good time is not to break traction, as once it has gone it takes ages to get back in the wet. In the dry you'll get away with it, as traction is easy to get back, but not in the wet. There's nothing wrong with an aggressive mindset, but you have to drive as smoothly as possible, putting subtle inputs into the car.
That means it's always better to be too slow in a corner than too fast. The ideal is to be driving just under the maximum at all times, rather than hanging it all out. It's the same when it's foggy - as a young driver you just sit and think about the time you are losing, rather than realising that just by keeping going you are progressing.
Sometimes that's the hardest thing in the world to do, though - when you are on slicks in the wet sometimes you feel that you could walk faster. You need faith that your approach is the right one, because one moment of impatience is usually punished hard.
There's one more thing you can do to make things play in your favour in the wet, and that's to set your car up to be progressive. You want to soften everything off, to give your mind and body more time to react and put less energy in the tyres.
You only want to be driving by the seat of your pants as a last resort...