Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Meeke caught off-guard in Brazil

Kris Meeke

Despite the efforts of more than 100 workers, the organisers of the Rally de Curitiba in Brazil were forced to call off last night’s opening classification stage.

It was meant to determine today’s starting order for Ulster’s Kris Meeke and the rest of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge contenders.

Persistent rain in the Curitiba region of southern Brazil left the purpose-built stage coated in mud which even a taskforce of 120 workers could not clear in time.

The 3.38-kilometre test at the Curitiba Autodrome, where the opening round of the World Touring Car Championship is also being staged this weekend, is scheduled to be used for the final superspecial stage on Saturday.

It was claimed that the rain has not had an impact on the gravel stages through the Brazilian forests which will make up the bulk of the route, thanks to the hard surface and high ambient temperatures drying the roads.

Meeke, the reigning IRC champion, is seeded No.1 in his Kronos Racing Peugeot 207, but the organisers were last night still working on a running order. The first few cars are at a disadvantage as they act as sweepers, clearing away the loose top surface of gravel.

Mikko Hirvonen will be first on the road in the Rally of Mexico today.

The Finn won the opening round of the World Rally Championship in Sweden to lead the standings and, as a result, will lead off on the loose, gravel stages.

Among his challengers will be Sebastien Loeb, the reigning world champion, who is keen to get back to winning ways, and Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula One world champion, has set himself the target of finishing this weekend after hitting a snow bank on the opening day in Sweden.

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