Meeke left to rue missed victory after engine expires
Kris Meeke was putting on a brave face but there was no hiding the fact he was gutted to have been robbed of a potential fifth World Rally Championship win in Corsica.
The Dungannon driver appeared to have the Tour de Corse under his control, leading the M-Sport Ford Fiesta of World champion Sebastien Ogier by more than 16 seconds just after the halfway mark. But then, on the sixth of the 10 long, torturous tarmac stages, the engine of his C3 Citroen expired.
The Citroen reached the end of the stage, still in the lead but it was wreathed in smoke and was going no further.
Meeke, the winner of the previous round in Mexico, explained: "Everything was going so well, everything was looking good right up until almost the end of stage six. Looking at the split times, we were going to come out with a 17-second lead and four stages to go."
But then disaster. And there was little warning for him and co-driver Paul Nagle.
"The car started to understeer on some right-hand corners which I thought was strange and then maybe a kilometre later I saw oil coming out of the air vents on the bonnet," said Meeke.
"Immediately after that the oil pressure warning light came on and as soon as I put my foot on the throttle the engine let go. That was it, game over.
"For sure, it wasn't the outcome I was hoping for, but it's part and parcel of the sport. In order for a car to go as fast as possible, there are tens of people who work on thousands of parts - and sometimes, it doesn't work quite as it should.
"But the weekend has given me a huge confidence boost for the future. It was really special to lead this rally, which I think is the most difficult tarmac event in the championship. Now we know that our C3 WRC can win on all surfaces and that's what we'll try to do in Argentina, and then in Portugal and everywhere else."
And as Hyundai's Thierry Neuville went on to take the victory yesterday, the fourth different winner for the fourth different manufacturer this season, there was further disappointment for Citroen when Craig Breen was edged out of fourth place by a 1/10th of a second on the final Power Stage by Toyota's Jari-Matti Latvala who took the bonus points for fastest time.
Ogier, his Ford hampered by electronic issues, finished second with the Hyundai of Dani Sordo third. The Spaniard had been trailing Breen on Saturday until the Circuit of Ireland winner's intercom failed.
Meanwhile, Keith Cronin led from start to finish in his M-Sport Fiesta R5 to win the Moonraker Rally, round two of the Irish forest championship.
Cronin was using the Ballyvourney-based event as a warm-up for the Pirelli International at the end of the month and his bid to win a fourth British championship. He finished over 20 seconds ahead of Josh Moffett, also in an R5 Fiesta, with Sam Moffett third in his WRC Fiesta and reigning forest champion Desi Henry (Skoda R5) fourth.