Kris Meeke stays on the tail of Loix
Kris Meeke is again fighting a lone battle against the powerful Skoda team on the Rali Vinho Madeira.
The Ulsterman, the reigning Intercontinental Challenge champion, was in second place in his Peugeot, surrounded by a trio of the latest ‘facelift’ works Skoda Fabias, at the end of the first leg last night.
Meeke’s former Peugeot team-mate Freddy Loix, now driving for Skoda, was in the lead with Jan Kopecky third and this season’s IRC championship leader Juho Hanninen in fourth.
Meeke had been fastest on the opening super-special stage along the seafront of Funchal, the island’s capital, but when the rally moved into the mountains he was overtaken by Loix and the Fiat Abarth of Italian Luca Rossetti who later crashed.
And Peugeot suffered a huge blow when Bruno Magalhaes, who had won the previous round in the Azores, crashed heavily on the third stage, his car somersaulting over a barrier into a ravine after suffering brake failure.
Meeke’s similar car suffered the same fate, the brakes overheating on the fast downhill stage, and although he came through unscathed he lost seven seconds to leader Rossetti.
But it was the Loix who consistently set the pace, the Belgian veteran using all his Madeira experience to ease away from Meeke who was locked in battle with Czech Kopecky.
Last night Loix led by 21 seconds from Meeke with Kopecky just a second behind in third and Hanninen in fourth.