The result may have been disappointing, but Kris Meeke still left the south of France for Spain buoyed by his performance on the Mont Blanc Rally.
In third place, but forced to skip the final stage of the first leg on Friday night when his Super 2000 Peugeot 207 suffered water pump failure, Meeke was given permission to continue on Saturday with a 10-minute penalty after a new engine had been fitted.
He went on to finish nine minutes 49 seconds behind the winning Peugeot 206 WRC of Patrick Henry, the new French championship leader.
Meeke’s appearance on the French event had been arranged by Peugeot Sport as a test and familiarisation exercise ahead of the penultimate round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge series, the San Remo Rally, which takes place over similar Alpine terrain across the border in Italy later in the month.
“It was unfortunate we had the problems on Friday, but the result was never that important,” he said.
“It was all about getting experience of these mountainous roads and to that end we were able to complete nearly 250 kms under competitive conditions.
“It was a very worthwhile exercise.”
Despite being up against an array of more powerful WRC cars, which had a distinct advantage on the steep mountain climbs, Meeke consistently set top three fastest times and was quickest on two of the Mont Blanc stages.
Without the penalty he would almost certainly have won the rally, but now he moves on to northern Spain to re-join his Peugeot satellite team, Kronos Racing, to defend his lead in the IRC series on the Asturias Rally which starts on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Sebastien Loeb was hit with a one minute penalty at the end of Rally Australia, relegating him to second place behind World championship arch-rival Mikko Hirvonen.
The World champion had come from behind to snatch victory from the Finn but Loeb was later penalised when it was discovered his Citroen C4, along with the other team cars of Dani Sordo and Sebastien Ogier, infringed a technical regulation involving their suspension.
It means Ford’s Hirvonen leads Loeb by five points with just rounds remaining.
In the Lafarge Stages Rally based at Cookstown, Camillus Bradley led from start to finish in his Ford Escort to win by almost a minute from the Mitsubishi Lancer of Kieron Graffin, with Drew Stewart in third.