Pressure ramps up on Meeke after crash in Deutschland
Kris Meeke's nightmare season went from bad to worse last night when he crashed on the short spectator stage which opened Rally Deutschland. The Dungannon driver's Citroen C3 clipped a barrier which broke the car's front right suspension, resulting in Meeke being stranded in the stage.
He was expected to re-join the action this morning under Rally2 rules but with a 10-minute penalty which will rule out any hope of victory.
Meeke has been involved in a series of crashes this season which saw him being dropped by the team for Rally Poland last month. Now he finds himself under huge pressure despite winning in Mexico earlier in the season.
Team-mate Craig Breen was second fastest last night, sandwiched between the Fords of Ott Tanak and Sebastien Ogier.
Meanwhile, Garry Jennings would admit to having regrets as the Ulster Rally moves off from the Guildhall Square in Londonderry today and he is not part of the line-up.
In 2015 he was within a mile of becoming the first driver to win the rally three years in a row when his WRC Subaru caught fire within sight of the finish.
But Jennings is one of a group of highly successful Irish drivers who have opted not to embrace the switch to the current generation of R5-class cars which now make up the primary class in both the Irish Tarmac and British Championships.
Along with other former Tarmac champions Declan Boyle, Donagh Kelly and Derek McGarrity, Jennings continues to stick with his S12 Subaru WRC.
His reasons may be different to Boyle and co but the result is the same - no place in the Ulster starting list.
There are no right-hand-drive R5 cars eligible for the event and Jennings has long expressed his reluctance to adapt to left-hand-drive, feeling it increases the risk factor. With a young family, it is not a risk he is prepared to take.
He did appear in a right-hand-drive Mitsubishi Mirage last year but it was only eligible for the national section and it proved an abortive exercise anyway. It was on offer again this time, along with a right-hand-drive Ford Fiesta, but neither could be part of the main rally and he declined.
"It wasn't a difficult decision to make," he said. "I would only be interested in doing the rally if I could be in the international section.
"Sure, I'm sorry I won't be competing as I have a good record on the rally, but I feel I don't have a choice until homologated R5s become available."
His absence is also a source of regret for fellow Ulstermen Alastair Fisher and Desi Henry. "I'd love to be going up against Garry and the others if we were all in R5 cars," said Fisher. Henry added: "Just imagine how competitive it would be if those guys made the switch."
But they will be bystanders this weekend as Fisher, Henry, Keith Cronin, Marty McCormack and Sweden's Fredrik Ahlin chase a first Ulster win.