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All eyes on Kris Meeke as he leads Monte Carlo Rally

By Sammy Hamill

Published 22/01/2016

Centre of attention: Kris Meeke at the Monte Carlo Rally
Centre of attention: Kris Meeke at the Monte Carlo Rally

Kris Meeke made a stunning start to the Monte Carlo Rally last night, grabbing the lead after the opening leg in the mountains above Monaco.

In icy conditions, he upstaged triple World champion Sebastien Ogier to lead by seven seconds - and felt it should have been more.

The Dungannon man said: "It's early days yet, but the feeling with the car is good. For sure, it could have been a bit better but I'm happy with my start."

Meeke had a spin on the first stage but still managed to finish second fastest over the 21 kilometre in the mountains.

Four seconds behind Ogier at that point, Meeke drove superbly on yesterday's second stage to move ahead of the World Champion.

Every other driver would have been happy to be so close to the Volkswagen ace after the first stage, but Meeke knew he had blown a chance to grab an early lead in his Abu Dhabi team Citroen.

"I spun at a hairpin not long after the start of the stage and dropped seven or eight seconds," he explained. "The car was great and the conditions were tricky. I made a small mistake."

But on the second stage, again over 21km, the Dungannon ace flew to the fastest time, 11 seconds faster than Ogier, to grab a surprise lead.

This time he was smiling - he was leading the Monte Carlo Rally for the first time.

Meeke pulled out a 20-second gap over the third-placed Volkswagen of Andreas Mikkelsen and was more than half a minute ahead of the Hyundais of Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon in fourth and fifth.

His Citroen team-mate from last season, Mads Ostberg, now driving for the M-Sport Ford team, was sixth and 35 seconds behind.

Jari-Matti Latvala, the VW No.2, had a disappointing start, dropping to seventh, a full 38 seconds off the pace, after clipping a rock.

Former F1 driver Robert Kubica (Ford) was eighth and the overnight top 10 was completed by Meeke's new Citroen team-mate, Frenchman Stephane Lefebrve, and Hyundai's Dani Sordo.

The rally continues this morning with six more stages in the Alps.

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