Belfast Telegraph

Impressive Kris Meeke in touch with top two

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke finished the first leg of Rally Finland in a strong third place.

The Ulsterman, in his Abu Dhabi Citroen, was the only driver to challenge the leading duo in the World championship, Volkswagen's Jari Matti Latvala and Sebastien. They again held first and second places, Latvala leading World champion Ogier by 4.4 seconds after the opening four stages in the fast Finnish forests.

But Meeke was just a further 4.7 seconds behind Ogier after an impressive performance which saw him stretch away from his Norwegian team-mate Mads Ostberg who was down in seventh place.

Meeke was 17 seconds ahead of the leading Ford of Mikko Hirvonen with another Finn, 2012 Circuit of Ireland winner Juho Hanninen, fifth for Hyundai. The third VW Polo of Andreas Mikkelsen was sixth.

Further back Craig Breen was in 14th place despite his privateer Ford Fiesta collecting a puncture on the long third stage. He was only 40 seconds behind the factory Ford of Elfyn Evans.

The same stage also brought trouble for Alastair Fisher. He had been in second place in the WRC3 division behind Croat Martin Koci but his Citroen suffered a puncture and he dropped more than two minutes, falling back to 33rd.

Meanwhile, motorbike road racing ace Michael Dunlop will switch to four wheels again tomorrow to take part in his second rally, the RiverRidge Recycling Dogleap.

It will take place within the confines of the former Shackleton army barracks at Ballykelly and Dunlop, seeded at No.6, will again drive a Ford Escort.

Favourite in a 90-strong entry list, which includes last year's winner Kieron Graffin. is reigning Northern Ireland champion Derek McGarrity in a WRC Mini.

Belfast Telegraph

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