Kris Meeke plays it safe for third place as Sebastien Ogier grabs first at Rally Australian
Kris Meeke accepted the inevitable and sensibly settled for a third-place finish on Rally Australia, despite leading for almost half the event.
Just three-10ths of a second behind leader Sebastien Ogier starting yesterday's final leg, the Dungannon driver conceded he wasn't going to be able to challenge the (now) three times World champion or his Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala without taking huge risks.
He would have been putting in jeopardy points crucially needed by his Citroen team in their fight with Hyundai for second place in the manufacturers' championship.
But Rally Argentina winner Meeke again succeeded in splitting the VW juggernaut by keeping Andreas Mikkelsen at bay through yesterday's five stages.
Like many drivers, including Ogier, Meeke had complained it was dangerous to run the stage in the dark, the headlights unable to penetrate the dust hanging beneath the trees.
He was furious at the stage finish, refusing radio and TV interviews and berating senior FIA officials for disregarding the drivers' protests and allowing it to take place.
Later he described it "as a disgrace" but went on to say: "We achieved our first target which was to make it to the finish and be consistent; make no mistakes.
"Yes, it was nice to be able to take advantage of our road position and lead the rally for much of the first two days, but a podium is as much as we could realistically have expected given the strength of the Volkswagens.
"We knew they would come strong on day three when the reverse starting positions gave them cleaner roads so it was a question of doing the best job we could and concentrate on bringing home points for the team."
Behind Mikkelsen, the Hyundais of Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville were fifth and seventh, split by the Ford of Ott Tanak.
Meeke's team-mate Stephane Lefebrve, a last-minute stand-in for the injured Mads Ostberg, finished 13th after breaking the suspension of his Citroen on the final Friday stage.