Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Meeke receives a turbo boost to championship hopes

The official motorsport arm of car maker Peugeot have added their weight to Kris Meeke's bid to become Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion.

Meeke drives for Peugeot's outstanding Belgian satellite team Kronos Racing with backing from Peugeot UK and in his first season in the series the Ulsterman leads the standings from Skoda's Jan Kopecky with three rounds remaining.

The penultimate event on September 24/26 is the San Remo Rally in Italy and Peugeot Sport have stepped in, making one of their factory-prepared Super 2000 207s available for Meeke to drive on the Mont Blanc Rally which takes place just across the border in France this weekend.

Meeke sees it as a great opportunity to sample the same mountainous terrain as San Remo and increase his tarmac experience.

“I know the Morzine area where the rally is based from snowboarding trips but it will be my first time to rally in the area and this will be invaluable preparation for San Remo,” he said.

Peugeot is part of the giant PSA group which also includes Citroen and the motorsport divisions of both companies are— headed by Olivier Quesnell who regularly uses Meeke as a Citroen test driver alongside World champion Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo.

Quesnell is clearly targeting a WRC and IRC double for the PSA group with Loeb and Meeke, hence his decision to throw the might of Peugeot Sport behind the Dungannon driver who has won in Brazil, the Azores and Belgium this season.

Meanwhile, Niall McShea was forced to pull out of the first leg of the Fogang Rally in China suffering from heat exhaustion.

The former World production champion from Fermanagh and his co-driver Marshall Clarke spent seven hours in hospital being re-hydrated —- but then re-joined the rally for the second leg, McShea setting fastest times on five of the six stages.

McShea had been called into the Chinese-owned FCACA team to drive one of their three production Subarus in place of New Zealander Tony Green. The Ulsterman was in second place behind the Mitsubishi of Chinese championship leader David Higgins until he and Clarke succumbed to the 44-degree (112 degrees Fahreheit) heat.

Mark Higgins, David's brother, who had flown to China immediately after finishing fourth on the Ulster Rally, moved up to take second place in his Mitsubishi but he and co-driver Nicky Grist also spent time in hospital at the end of the first leg suffering from dehydration.

They recovered to rejoin on Sunday and finished second as David Higgins took his second win of the season and increase his lead in the series.

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