Meeke rues no podium Finnish after tree crash
Kris Meeke could well be asking himself: why me? It was possibly the slowest speed accident of his career but it cost him a deserved podium finish on Rally Finland.
Not only did his Citroen slide agonisingly slowly into a tree, breaking the front suspension, but World champion Sebastien Ogier made exactly the same mistake on the same corner of the same stage and took a chuck of metal out of his Volkswagen's wheel rim.
He didn't even get a puncture and went to finish second behind his Finnish team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, now a three-time Finland winner.
Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle could only curse their bad luck after a stirring performance in which the Ulsterman was again the only driver to challenge the VW supremacy. "I got it 99.5 per cent right but that half per cent is what makes the difference," he said ruefully.
The Rally Argentina winner had led briefly on Friday before the two VWs edged ahead but Meeke was still on their tail until stage 16 on Saturday afternoon when the rain came pelting down, covering the fast gravel stages in a coating of mud.
Meeke explained what happened. "It was a right-hand bend which tightened over a jump. I stayed in the middle, like I did on the first run, but when I turned into the corner I was already in the mud and car started aquaplaning," he said.
"The car was travelling at less than 20 kph but it wouldn't turn and hit a tree on the outside of the corner, breaking the front left-hand suspension. It's a real shame, because we were on course for a good result."
Meeke dropped down to 18th place, just behind Citroen team-mates Khalid Al Qassimi and Ballyclare co-driver Chris Patterson, although he did manage to salvage a single point for third fastest time behind Ogier and Latvala on the final Power Stage yesterday.
Mads Ostberg inherited Meeke's third place ahead of Hyundai's Thierry Neuville and behind them were two recent Circuit of Ireland winners, Juho Hanninen sixth in his Ford Fiesta and Esapekka Lappi eighth and winning the WRC2 category in his Skoda.
Locally, Joe McGonigle won the Dogleap Rally at Ballykelly after a tie with Derek McGarrity.
Alan McGeehan had been leading comfortably in the McGeehan team's WRC Mini but in a dramatic last stage he spun and dropped 20 seconds, slipping to third as McGonigle in his S2000 Skoda beat McGarrity's R4 Subaru by two seconds to win on a tie break.