Belfast Telegraph

Kris Meeke is holding his nerve to stay in the hunt

BY SAMMY HAMILL

Kris Meeke put on his conservative hat to hold sixth place at the end of the leg of the Rally of Spain.

Coming off the back of four successive retirements, the former IRC champion from Dungannon was under pressure to get his John Cooper Mini WRC over the finish line tomorow.

His approach was to take no chances over yesterday's gravel stages in the Catalunya region near Salou but his task was made more difficult by the clouds of dust kicked up by the cars ahead of him.

"The dust was the worst I've ever experienced - it was even getting inside the car and clinging to the windscreen," said Meeke who ended the day 50 seconds behind his fifth placed Mini team-mate Dani Sordo.

"We have been telling the organisers all week they shouldn't run this last stage in the dark - it is just impossible to see and has destroyed the rally for so many people."

Sordo was also equally critical, claiming the dust had already cost him the chance to win his home round. Second in France three weeks ago, he was over two minutes back from leader Sebastien Loeb last night.

Loeb grabbed the lead on the final stage when Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala misjudged a corner in the dust and went off the road. Bidding for an eight World title, Citroen ace Loeb led by 30 seconds from the Finn with Mikko Hirvonen, joint leader of the series, third but 54 seconds behind.

The dust claimed an early casualty when former World champion Petter Solberg, co-driven by Ulsterman Chris Patterson, clipped a culvert at the edge of the road, tearing a wheel off the Citroen.

Further back Craig Breen was in 14th place and third in the Super 2000 category in his Ford Fiesta behind Nasser Al-Attiyah (11th) and IRC champion Juho Hanninen (13th).

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