Kris Meeke is back on track after his Polish crash scare
Kris Meeke was lucky to be able to start Rally Poland last night after a huge accident during the pre-event shakedown stage. Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle were unhurt but their Abu Dhabi Citroen DS3 sustained heavy damage, requiring a new bonnet, boot, windscreen, radiator, bumper and various other parts.
Crucially, however, the roll cage was undamaged despite the car flipping over seven times. Had it been bent or twisted Meeke would not have been allowed to start on safety grounds.
The accident happened on the Dungannon driver's fifth run over the short shakedown stage which is used to finalise the set-up of the cars ahead of the rally.
He was just a few hundred metres into the stage, entering a fast left hand corner when the car kicked up onto two wheels and barrel-rolled down the gravel track.
Even after studying video footage Meeke (below) said he was unsure what had gone wrong.
"I didn't hit anything," he insisted. "I was up to fourth gear and that corner is completely flat and had been every time. It took me completely by surprise, the car was just launched into the air and went over and over.
"Fortunately, the rollcage stayed intact but it was an anxious time waiting for the FIA delegate to give it the all clear.
"But it's all good now and the team have done a fantastic job to re-build it in such a short space of time."
Indeed, the Citroen looked brand new again as Meeke lined up for opening super-special sprint stage in Mikolajki last night.
Away from the World championship the focus tomorrow is on one of the most popular events on the local calendar, the Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park Rally (10.15am start).
Up to 8,000 spectators will be in the park to see Donegal International winner Garry Jennings bidding for a hat-trick of victories in his S12 Subaru against a line-up which includes 11-times winner Kenny McKinstry and two drivers, Derek McGarrity (Subaru) and Derek McGeehan (Mini), who have come up agonisingly short in recent years.
McGarrity, a five times Circuit of Ireland winner, has been second more often than he cares to remember and would desperately love to add a park win to his CV. McGeehan was a winning owner back in 2012 when Kris Meeke drove one of his WRC Minis to victory and he has been on the podium himself, just not on the top step.
One of the highlights is always the fierce fight for two-wheel-drive honours and this year it features familiar names in unfamiliar cars.
For instance, Craig Breen forsakes his European championship leading Peugeot 208 T16 for a Ford Escort as does multi Scottish champion David Bogie.
In an Escort, too, will be Donagh Kelly who is within reach of becoming Irish Tarmac and National champion after a string of victories in his WRC Ford Focus.
They will be taking on regular Escort experts like Wesley Patterson, Frank Kelly, Camillus Bradley, Adrian Hetherington and Damien Toner in a battle than will keep the fans entertained all day.