Kris Meeke helpless to prevent crash
A bad day turned even worse for Kris Meeke at the end of the first leg of the Rally of Portugal.
As the Fords of Mikko Hirvonen and Ott Tanak went one and two at the top of the leaderboard, Meeke, who had been fifth overnight, struggled with pacenote problems as well as his co-driver Paul Nagle suffering from a nasty virus.
The Dungannon driver adopted a safety first approach and dropped back to 10th but then crashed his Citroen off the road on the final stage of the day.
He was one of several leading drivers to fall foul of the difficult, muddy Portuguese conditions and, indeed, he crashed out on the same stretch of road where Robert Kubica and Elfyn Evans had gone off earlier in the day.
Out, too, went Rally Sweden winner Jari-Matti Latvala, who rolled his Volkswagen onto its roof on stage five.
The Finn's team-mate, World champion Sebastien Ogier, led for most of the day but was overtaken on the final stage by both Hirvonen and Tanak, leaving the Finn leading by 3.7 seconds from the Estonian.
Ogier was a further three seconds back in third and 22 seconds ahead of Meeke's team-mate Mads Ostberg.
But the two Irish drivers in the WRC2 division were still going strong last night with Robert Barrable in 20th place overall and Marty McCormack in 22nd.
And in the WRC3 category, Alastair Fisher dominated the opening leg in his Citroen DS3, leading by 29 seconds from Italian Simone Campedelli.
Meeke was expected to re-join today under Rally 2 rules.