Kris Meeke is relieved to still be in the mix
It was not the kind of performance Kris Meeke was hoping for but he could at least be grateful for small mercies. He was in eighth place after the first full day of Rally Poland when he could easily have been sitting on the sidelines.
His massive crash during the pre-event shakedown stage saw the Citroen mechanics work flat out on Thursday just to get the Dungannon driver to the start; indeed he and co-driver Paul Nagle had to walk over the ceremonial start ramp because repairs were still going on.
The made it to the opening super-special stage at Mikolajki Arena where Meeke was only 17th fastest after stalling the Citroen on the start line. But he settled down yesterday and, despite favouring caution over commitment, he ran comfortably in the top five throughout the first loop of five stages.
Things went wrong, however, in the afternoon, sparked by a team decision to run soft compound tyres on the gravel roads. They wore out too quickly and on the 39km seventh stage Meeke dropped 23 seconds to the leading Volkswagen of World champion Sebastien Ogier.
Then on stage eight he was off the road into a field, losing another 24 seconds and falling back to eighth. "There was no grip left in the tyres and I was haemorrhaging time everywhere," he explained. "I went off into field but fortunately there was no damage."
Meeke wasn't alone in his troubles. Team-mate Mads Ostberg also struggled with lack of grip and was back in 10th place. Even more upset was Ford's young Estonian driver Ott Tanak who had led for the first six stages only to slip to fourth when his tyres, too, went off.
He was replaced at the front Ogier who came through in the afternoon to take the lead ahead of his VW team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala, just eight seconds covering the three of them.
Behind Tanak, New Zealander Hayden Padden was fifth with Thierry Neuville seventh, the two Hyundais sandwiching the sixth placed Ford of Robert Kubica.