Kris Meeke stays positive in Portugal despite missing out on podium
Kris Meeke missed out on a podium position on Rally Portugal but he was far from downhearted.
Following his victory on the previous round in Argentina, the Dungannon driver was challenging for the lead at one point in Portugal but in the end his Abu Dhabi team Citroen DS3 was overrun by the Volkswagen steamroller.
They swept the boards again, this time with Jari-Matti Latvala holding off World champion Sebastien Ogier for his first win of the season and Andreas Mikkelsen overhauling Meeke in the closing stages to take third place.
Again Meeke was the only driver to challenge their supremacy, running in second place for most of the rally and edging to within six seconds of the lead on Saturday.
But he lost two places in the final four stages, falling into the clutches of the fast-finishing Ogier on the final stage on Saturday and then dropping behind Mikkelsen when his Citroen suffered a broken rollbar in the rear suspension yesterday.
He was philosophical at the finish. "You can't win every weekend," said Meeke. "The confidence was good, the car has been incredible and we got close at one point. But we need to learn more about tyre management - it cost us time on the second loop on Saturday.
"It's a shame about the [suspension] breakage yesterday which took us out of the challenge for a podium. Overall though, a really positive weekend," added Meeke, who moves up to fourth in the WRC standings.
Ford's Ott Tanak finished fifth, more than a minute behind the Ulsterman and his Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle. Hyundai's Dani Sordo took sixth just ahead of the second factory Citroen of Mads Ostberg.
It proved to be a disappointing rally for the rest of the Irish contingent. Keith Cronin never got to start after crashing during a pre-event test session and Craig Breen lasted only as far as stage two.
Meanwhile, Paedar Hurson won the Cavan Rally by a comfortable margin of 53 seconds from Niall Maguire with Garry Jennings third in an all Subaru one-two-three.
And in Co Armagh, Damien Toner snatched a three-second win from Jim McKenna in the Loughgall Country Park Rally. David Armstrong was third, all three driving Ford Escorts.
Jonny McMullan maintained his challenge for the UK national Formula Ford championship with sixth and second places at Oulton Park. Steven Kane, along with Bentley team-mates Guy Smith and Andy Meyrick, finished ninth in round two of the Blancpain European endurance championship at Silverstone.