Rally d’Italia: Early finish far from a disaster for Meeke
It was a disappointed but not downbeat Kris Meeke who left Sardinia for home after the debut of the new BMW Mini team in the Rally d’Italia.
“We have more positives than negatives to take away and although I’m disappointed to have gone out so early, Dani (team-mate Sordo) went on to finish sixth and I’m really encouraged by the way the car performed,” said the Ulster driver.
“We didn’t know how competitive I or the car would be, but to set a third fastest time and be in fourth place after the first two stages, in amongst the likes of Sebastien Ogier and Petter Solberg, was amazing.”
But one stage later, Meeke was off the road and in a field.
“I noticed a problem with the throttle. It wasn't releasing immediately when I came off the accelerator. In stage two, when I was turning into slow corners, I felt the car was pushing on,” said Meeke.
“In stage three I was changing the direction of the car by lifting off for a moment and braking, but the throttle stayed open.
“There was no chance to do anything, the car ran wide, went over a bank and down into a field.
“Afterwards, when we downloaded the data from the car, the team could see what was happening and they tried to fix it so I could re-start for the second leg.
“On the first stage on Saturday, it was back again. I tried to make allowances for it, but the engine started to leak water and overheated and I had no choice but to pull over.
“Very frustrating, but brilliant as well, because I now know for sure I can compete at this level.”
The team were also buoyed up by Sordo’s solid sixth place although his Mini Countryman experienced a similar throttle problem during the second leg.
Victory went to Citroen’s World champion Sebastien Loeb, 11 seconds ahead of Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen with Petter Solberg and his Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson third in their privateer Citroen.
Meanwhile, Kenny McKinstry continued his perfect start to the Hankook Northern Ireland championship with victory on the Tour of the Sperrins, his fourth win in a row.