Kris in a fix as Loeb back on top
Published 18/08/2008 | 10:12
While Sebastien Loeb duly completed an amazing seventh successive victory on Rally Deutschland there was last leg heartbreak for Kris Meeke.
The Ulsterman was virtually cruising to a comprehensive Super 1600 win when his Italian-run Renault Clio hit trouble.
A power steering pipe burst, costing him over 40 seconds as he wrestled the front-wheel-drive Clio through the last seven kilometres of stage 15 and on through stage 16 but such was his early dominance, Meeke remained well clear of the chasing pack.
The power steering unit was replaced by the Munaretto engineers at the final service and Meeke headed out for the last full road stage of the rally before the Trier town centre superspecial. But towards the end of the stage, the Renault ground to a halt.
It took several minutes for Meeke, a trained engineer, to trace the problem to a crankshaft sensor and fix it. In total he lost over six minutes, handing the S1600 victory to young Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, leader of the Junior World championship series.
Despite the disappointment, Meeke was upbeat last night. "Yes, it was a frustrating way for it to end but these things happen and overall I was delighted with my performance," he said.
"I took a bit of time to settle into the car on Friday but once we made adjustments to the set up I got comfortable and was fastest on every stage on Saturday to build a very comfortable lead over the best S1600 drivers around at the moment.
"If I was chasing a championship I would be more upset and although it would have been nice to return to the WRC with a win I think I still made my point."
Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle eventually finished 25th overall, third best of the S1600 contenders behind the Citroens of Ogier, who now heads for this weekend's Ulster Rally, and Nicolai Burkart but still more than a minute ahead of Donegal driver Shaun Gallagher who moves up to second in the JWRC standings after another steady drive.
Up at the front, Loeb completed another masterly performance to take victory by nearly 50 seconds from his Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo and regain the lead in the World championship.
With Ford's Mikko Hirvonen slipping to fourth behind Francois Duval after a puncture on the final Saturday stage, Loeb moves four points clear at the top. His seventh win of the season puts the French ace back on course for a fifth successive World title.