Belfast Telegraph

Meeke crashes in Monte Carlo Rally

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke crashed out right at the start of day two of the Monte Carlo Rally.

The Ulsterman, in second place overnight, was caught out on black ice little more than a kilometre into the first stage of the second leg, his Peugeot hitting a bridge parapet and falling down a bank.

Meeke had stuck to his game plan on day one. He said he would not take unnecessary risks and would keep “the bigger picture” — the defence of his Intercontinental Rally Challenge crown — in mind.

It was that caution which probably cost him the 42 seconds he trailed behind leader Mikko Hirvonen as the crews returned to Valance last night.

Meeke lost all of that time on the second stage of the day, the massive 45 kms of St Pierreville to Antraigues, where he opted to back off in the fog. He also had issues with his Kronos Racing Peugeot which had been set up for snowy conditions and overnight rain washed 90 per cent of it away.

But a change to a tarmac set up for the afternoon stages saw him climb from fifth to second and close the gap to World championship runner-up Hirvonen who was at the wheel of Ford’s new S2000 Fiesta for its competition debut.

Today it all went wrong and, like last year, he fell victim to the Monte ice.

It was punctures which cost others dear, Stephane Sarrazin losing three minutes and dropping from second to eighth while Jan Kopecky, second in the IRC series to Meeke last year, fell out of contention with a puncture on the first stage.

However, his Skoda team-mates Juho Hanninen and Nicolas Vouilloz held third and fourth places overnight with last year’s winner Sebastien Ogier in fifth but almost two minutes adrift after he was caught out by snow shovelled onto the road by spectators.

Meeke’s big British rival, Guy Wilks, had a disastrous start and although he ended the day in 10th, his Skoda was already over four minutes off the pace.

Further back, Irish privateers Eamonn Boland and Danny Barry were in 26 and 35th places respectively in the production Mitsubishis.

Positions after stage 4: 1 Mikko Hirvonen (Ford}1h 34m 01.8s; 2 Kris Meeke (Peugeot)+ 41.9s; 3 Juho Hanninen (Skoda)+ 1m 04.4s; 4 Nicolas Vouilloz (Skoda)+ 1m 20.3s; 5 Sebastien Ogier (Peugeot) + 1m 50.5s; 6 Bruno Magalhaes (Peugeot} + 2m 28.1s; 7 Toni Gardemeister (Abarth) + 2m 43.2s; 8 Stephane Sarrazin (Peugeot) + 3m 15.8s; 9 Franz Wittmann (Peugeot)+ 3m 44.1s; 10 Guy Wilks (Skoda) + 4m 27.1s.

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