Kris Meeke can take advantage of rift between rivals
Kris Meeke could have a ringside seat if a simmering World rally championship feud kicks off in Sardinia this weekend.
Sebastien Ogier did himself few favours with his ill-conceived remarks at the end of the previous round, Rally Portugal, where he finished second behind Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
The Frenchman has dominated the WRC series for the past two years and has already won three times this season. But he feels he is being unfairly handicapped on gravel rallies by having to run first on the road for the opening two days of each round as championship leader.
Ogier has railed against it time after time and in Portugal he let his feelings get the better of him, implying Latvala only won because of his road position handicap, saying: "I know that it's a happy day for many people, because it looks like it's boring when it's always the best that is winning. So, this weekend, it's not the best winning."
It was a crass comment by a driver who will never enjoy the same popularity and affection which was afforded to his predecessor, nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb.
And tonight, when the VW duo return to action on Rally Italia, Ogier will again act as gravel sweeper on the rocky, dusty roads of Sardinia. He won't be happy about it and he also knows that Latvala will be all the more determined to prove the "best" did win in Portugal.
It could kick off into a duel which may prove to Meeke's advantage. Winner of Rally Argentina, the Ulsterman and co-driver Paul Nagle were also third behind the battling VW pair in Portugal and have their sights set on getting their Abu Dhabi team Citroen DS3 on the podium again.
"Although Sardinia is one of the events I am most familiar with, a lot of the stages are new this year so everyone will start afresh," Meeke explained. "But this is one of the roughest rallies with narrow roads and exposed rocks. It calls for very clean driving.
"Since Mexico (in March) we have been consistently fighting at the front and we need to keep up our good form. A podium finish would be a perfect result."
Keith Cronin is also in the entry list but won't start following his pre-Portugal testing accident. The line-up also includes co-drivers Chris Patterson (with Khalid Al Qassimi), Michael Orr (Yazeed Al Rajhi) and Marshall Clarke (Abdulaziz Al Kuwari).