Meeke relishes Aussie battle
Kris Meeke declared himself happy with his performance on the first leg of Rally Australia despite losing the lead to the Volkswagen of Jari-Matti Latvala on the final stage of the day.
The Dungannon driver re-started from Coff's Harbour late last night just two seconds behind Latvala but knowing he had to maintain the same consistent, error-free rhythm which saw him lead for much of the opening leg before being edged out by the Finn on the long, familiarly-named Newry stage.
With his new Citroen team-mate Stephane Lefebrve - a last-minute stand-in for the injured Mads Ostberg - suffering broken suspension on the same stage, the onus was on Meeke to deliver crucial points in the manufacturer fight with Hyundai.
He did all that was asked of him on day one, taking advantage of sixth starting position on the dusty gravel roads to lead from stage three until seven. However, it was that same starting place which caused him problems late in the day as the dust clouds intensified.
"Even though we lost the lead, I'm still happy," said Meeke. "We took advantage of our starting position in the morning to make a good start. I had a good rhythm and didn't take any risks.
"I couldn't do much more to defend the position, given the dust clouds that reduced our visibility over the last couple of stages. It is not much fun trying to drive in sixth gear when you can hardly see beyond the bonnet. We'll see how it goes from here, bearing in mind that the most important thing is to make it to the finish and bring home points."
Meeke was again the meat in a thick Volkswagen sandwich, two seconds behind Latvala and just under three ahead of World champion Sebastien Ogier with Andreas Mikkelsen in fourth. The Norwegian was followed by a trio of Hyundais with Dani Sordo fifth, Hayden Paddon sixth and Thierry Neuville seventh. The Fords of Ott Tanak and Elfyn Evans were eighth and ninth.
Lefebrve, driving a WRC Citroen on gravel for the first time, had been ninth until he hit a rock and broke the front suspension.