Julien Meunier: “I feel I’ve reached a new level”

After a first weekend of racing rewarded with a podium finish at Tierp, Julien Meunier took another step forward at Kouvola. Admittedly, the Frenchman was unable to repeat his performance in Sweden 15 days earlier, but he can now look forward to the next race in Alvsbyn at the end of June with some guarantees.

Fourth in Race 1 in Kouvola, Julien Meunier proved in Race 2 that he now has all the cards in his hand to close in on the favourites, Simon Olofsson, Casper Jansson and Lukas Andersson.

As proof, Julien Meunier simply set the fastest lap of the entire Kouvola event on a track that has traditionally been the exclusive territory of two-time defending champion Simon Olofsson.

Admittedly, two punctures towards the end of the weekend cost him a chance of a podium finish, while Olofsson’s comeback from engine damage in Sweden cost him provisional third place in the championship, but it would take more than that for the 17-year-old Frenchman to doubt his chances.

“We showed in Kouvola that we have the speed to compete with the favourites in this championship,” explains Julien.

“We’ve been driving the car a lot more now, so we’re starting to understand how it works. Now that we’ve got the basics right, we can start to put in a lot more pace. Of course, it’s still frustrating not to have followed up our performance in Finland with a podium finish, because unlike Tierp, where I was able to finish third even though I wasn’t on the pace, the dynamics were different in Kouvola, so I’m still a bit disappointed. When you manage to set the fastest lap of the weekend, you’re hoping for a much better result.

Julien suffered a puncture in the final, but can be pleased with his progress.

“I’ve almost always started from row 4, which isn’t the most favourable at Kouvola, and with everyone getting good starts it’s difficult to hope to make a difference by trying the outside line in turn 1. Nevertheless, I’ll take the positives. It was a very good weekend and, even if I didn’t get any results, we showed that we can be in the game on a track that is still very selective in terms of driving. If nothing else, it has given us the confidence we need for the next few races by putting us up against drivers who are much more experienced in this category and in this championship. To beat them in terms of pure speed is a performance I didn’t expect, nor did I expect to adapt so quickly to a track like this.”

“At first sight this track is very scary because some sections look dangerous, but when you get in the car you see that things are much better. Apart from the dirt sections, the grip on the asphalt sections is really impressive. I can’t remember ever driving on a track with so much grip on tarmac. In fact, I feel I’ve made a very interesting step forward this weekend and I’m curious to see what it will be like at Alvsbyn. No-one has raced there before, so we’ll all be starting on a level playing field and I’m looking forward to seeing how we can perform in such an environment.”