Belfast Telegraph

Intercontinental Rally Challenge: Meeke bids to banish gloom with a happy ending

By Sammy Hamill

If the Peugeot phase of Kris Meeke’s rally career is coming to a finish he wants to make it a memorable finale.

His Intercontinental Rally Challenge crown may have slipped but the Ulsterman intends to end his reign back on top of the winners’ podium — starting this weekend in Italy.

There are three IRC rounds left and the Dungannon driver is targeting at least two of them before his expected move to the World championship with the new Prodrive Mini team.

Meeke won the classic Italian event in Sanremo last season to clinch the IRC championship and he also finished in first place on the Rally of Scotland only to be stripped of victory when a mistake by the Peugeot engineers saw his car excluded at the post-event scrutineering.

But five non-finishes this season saw the title slip away.

“It’s fair to say it hasn’t gone as smoothly this season as it did last year but it hasn’t taken away my desire to start every event trying to achieve the maximum,” he said. “I want to finish this year on a high and to win in both Sanremo and Scotland would take away some of the pain of losing my title.”

But the Italian round brings together the strongest field of S2000 cars so far as well as the cream of Europe’s tarmac rally specialists. Not just the Skoda quartet of Juho Hanninen, Jan Kopecky, Freddie Loix and Guy Wilks but the Fiats of Giandomenico Basso and Luca Rossetti as well as Peugeot drivers Paulo Andreucci, Bryan Bouffier and Bruno Magalhaes.

The field will also include Meeke’s fellow Ulsterman Niall McShea.

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