Belfast Telegraph

Rally Azores: ‘Deliberate’ mistakes aid Meeke in Portugal

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke promised a “different approach” to the Rally Azores after successive crashes on the last two rounds of the Intercontinental Challenge.

Sixth place at the end of the first leg was the unusual position the reigning champion found himself in last night. However, Meeke was happy, having ended up playing a tactical game to ensure an improved road position for today’s second leg.

As last year’s Azores winner, the Ulsterman had the dubious honour of leading the field on last night’s short opening leg. It meant his Peugeot was first on the road, sweeping away the top layer of loose gravel for the following cars.

With the first five cars on the leaderboard scheduled to start today in reverse order, the one place Meeke didn’t want to be was fifth, which would have meant running first again.

But he judged it perfectly, slotting into sixth place, but still only 12 seconds behind the Skoda of leader Juho Hanninen.

The Finn was just two-10ths of a second ahead of the Peugeot of Bruno Maghalaes, the Portuguese champion capitalising on his knowledge of the island stages to make an impressive start.

Maghalaes shared second place with the Ford Fiesta of Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen, with Hanninen’s Skoda team-mate Jan Kopecky in fourth, just five seconds off the lead.

Meeke admitted “deliberately having a bad second stage” to drop behind the Ford Fiesta of another Portuguese driver, Bernardo Sousa.

The tactic clearly annoyed Sousa, but asked if he had manipulated the rules to ensure a better road position Meeke answered tersely: “If they had sorted out the rules properly beforehand we wouldn’t have to manipulate them.”

Belfast Telegraph

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