Riding shotgun with Kris Meeke in his Citroën DS3 WRC machine through a full-on forest stage in France is, without a doubt, one of the most astonishing experiences I've had on four wheels in a very long time indeed.
The only other time I’ve sat next to anyone else in similar circumstances was when the late, great Colin McRae drove me through a Cumbrian forest in his (then front-line) Ford Focus WRC.
And I remember thinking at the time that surely no-one, anywhere, could ever match that. McRae’s combination of commitment, confidence, skill and hand/eye coordination left me gasping in disbelief for many years afterwards.
But I think Meeke is every bit as good, albeit in a subtly different way. He’s a bit more violent with his inputs at the controls, especially the gearbox. As a result the whole business of being a passenger beside him felt that much closer to the edge. I was terrified by both of them, to be honest, but disaster felt that much closer when I was sitting next to Meeke somehow.
That might just be the difference between a World Rally Car of way back when and one that’s contemporary today, of course. Different cars with different diffs and different gearboxes need to be driven in different ways to get the most out of them, basically, and both Meeke and McRae certainly felt like they were doing that from where I was sitting.
But if anything Meeke seemed even more committed to his cause to me, and that’s just a ridiculous thing to observe given how fast the Scotsman was. Maybe Colin was simply a bit bored on the day by the time I got to sit next to him, having spent the entire morning pounding round the same stage but with a different passenger to entertain every 20 minutes.
Maybe Kris was that little bit keener to show what he could do to a frightened journalist, given that this is still his first year in a works WRC drive. Or maybe I'm just getting old, and everything in the world is coming towards me that much faster nowadays.
Whatever the truth of it, modern WRC is faster and more exciting than ever when you are up close and personal to it, even if its global allure is nothing like as strong as it once was.