Meeke upbeat after slipping out of top places in icy Sweden
Kris Meeke slipped — literally — back to fourth place at the end of the first leg of Rally Sweden last night.
The Dungannon driver had been running in third for most of the day but lost time on the final stage when the tyres on his C3 Citroen lost almost all of their studs.
“It was horrible and I was really, really slow,” he said. “The tyres are completely shot and driving on ice without studs is not nice, pretty hairy.
“Overall it wasn’t a bad day but we lost a lot of time on the last two stages when the studs came out. Still, we’re still here and still in the fight,” added Meeke, who also lost around 15 seconds when the Citroen slid into a snowbank on stage five.
“The car went light over a bad bump and just steered off the road into the snowbank on the next corner. We were lucky it didn’t get stuck.”
It was on the last two stages of the day that he and co-driver Paul Nagle lost third to the M-Sport Ford Escort of Ott Tanak but remained ahead of the Estonian’s team-mate, World champion and Monte Carlo Rally winner Sebastien Ogier.
The three of them, however, were already close to a minute behind the leader, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, who had opened a 24-second gap over the Toyota of Jari-Matti Latvala.
The Hyundais of Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo were in sixth and seventh place ahead of Meeke’s team-mate Craig Breen, who was another driver to fall foul of the snowbanks.
Making his debut in Citroen’s new C3, he was off the road twice and admitted the incidents had sapped his confidence. He also hit a rock which damaged the front suspension.
“It wasn’t really our day but we’re learning about the car and we’ll come back stronger,” said the double Circuit of Ireland winner.