Kris Meeke off to roaring start on debut
Kris Meeke made an impressive start to his debut drive with the Citroen World championship team on day one of the Rally of Finland.
The former IRC champion from Dungannon is in sixth place, just 17 seconds behind the leading Ford of Belgian Thierry Neuville after a day in which he outshone his Citroen team-mates.
Meeke, standing in for Citroen number three Khalid Al Qassimi and making his first World championship appearance in more than 18 months, was less than four seconds behind team leader Mikko Hirvonen, who is on his home round of the WRC, and 20 seconds ahead of ninth placed Spaniard Dani Sordo. And making it an outstanding start by the Irish contingent, Alastair Fisher led the WRC3 division in 23rd place overall with Keith Cronin second, 10 seconds behind.
It might have been even better for Meeke and co-driver Chris Patterson but for a first stage puncture which cost eight seconds.
"It was a disappointing way to start and afterwards I had to be extra careful because we were only carrying one spare wheel and another puncture could have put us out of the rally," he said.
But Meeke still set two top three stage times, twice beating the VW of championship leader Sebastien Ogier who finished the opening leg in second place.
The second Ford driver, Norwegian Mads Ostberg, was third ahead of Hirvonen with last year's Circuit of Ireland winner Juho Hanninen fifth in his Ford, just half-a-second ahead of Meeke.
Further back, Robert Barrable was in 18th place and eighth in the WRC2 category.