Rally Challenge: Kris Meeke fails to finish as crown slips
Kris Meeke admitted his chances of retaining his Intercontinental Rally Challenge crown are “hanging by a thread” after his fifth non-finish of a nightmare season on the Rally Vinho Madeira.
A blown engine in his Peugeot 207 forced his retirement from second place five stages from the end of the hot, fast tarmac event.
“It is still mathematically possible but I would have to win all of the final four rounds and on the evidence of this season that doesn’t look likely,” he said.
“This was particularly disappointing. I don’t think I have ever driven better on a tarmac rally but then the engine just let go. There was no warning and the engineers have told me nothing showed up on the data before it went bang. It’s a mystery.”
It was his former Peugeot team-mate Belgian Freddy Loix who took victory for Skoda ahead of Czech Jan Kopecky and Finn Juho Hanninen — a one-two-three for the new ‘facelift’ Fabia.
Meeke was again the only Peugeot driver to challenge the Skoda supremacy, although brake trouble and low fuel pressure at one point saw him fall over 20 seconds behind Loix.
He lost second to Kopecky early on Saturday when hiss alternator failed but he and co-driver Paul Nagle made repairs themselves and bounced back with fastest time on the next stage to overhaul the Czech again.
But just three kilometres into the following stage the car spewed out its oil, leaving a slippery slick which, ironically, almost claimed the chasing Skodas of Kopecky and Hanninen.
Kopecky survived a lurid slide but Hanninen clipped a wall with the rear of his Skoda and was lucky to escape with no more than a puncture and continues to lead the IRC series, seven points ahead of Kopecky, with Meeke a distance fifth, 31 points adrift.
Next is the Barum Rally in the Czech Republic from August 27.