Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Meeke challenge ends

Rally Ireland FIA World Rally Championship Powered by Belfast Telegraph
Video: Gary Grattan reports from
biggest sporting event in Ulster's history
Rally Ireland FIA World Rally Championship Powered by Belfast Telegraph
Video: Gary Grattan reports from
biggest sporting event in Ulster\'s history
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Kris Meeke was too upset to even talk about it. His Rally Ireland dream which had started so promisingly beneath the blazing arc lights at Stormont on Thursday night effectively ended in a Sligo field yesterday.

The 28-year-old from Dungannon had started day two in third place but quickly dropped to eighth, his Subaru struggling for grip on the wet, muddy roads.

He, like many others, had been caught out by the conditions and had made inappropriate tyre choices.

But after service back in Sligo that was sorted and he moved up to seventh only for a turbo clip to come loose, cutting the engine's power. And that had just been fixed when the Subaru went slithering through a hedge and down a field. He was joined in the hedge minutes later by Eamonn Boland's Ford Focus.

Enthusiastic fans manhandled it back onto the road but it took considerable time - and when he did get going again Meeke found his way blocked by another crashed car!

He did eventually struggle back to service in Sligo where Derek McGarrity's DMG team went to work, straightening out the damage. It was decided he would attempt the final two stages of the day, while it was determined whether he had exceeded his lateness allowance bearing in mind he had been held up by another accident.

But back in Sligo last night, the decision was taken to withdraw.

"It was an insurance issue," said McGarrity. "The first accident had used up the excess and we would have been risking the car just to stay in under super rally rules. Kris had lost too much time and it wasn't worth the risk."

Out, too, went Eugene Donnelly, his Skoda Fabia breaking a driveshaft on just the second stage of the day.

Meanwhile, the man who had battled Donnelly for the Tarmac title this year, Mark Higgins, was in 11th place overall and leading the Production World championship category in his Mitsubishi.

Higgins must win in Ireland to maintain his challenge for the title and was right on course despite still feeling the affects of a collar bone he broke just three weeks ago.

He had Niall McShea would prove a threat ? and he did initially but then a puncture dropped the Fermanagh driver's Subaru back and he was in 17th place last night.

Phillip Morrow was further down in 27th, recovering from an early accident, and Richard Cathcart was 31st after a flying start in which his Subaru was up in the top 15.

Darren Gass was 33rd, Mike Curran 34th, Garry Jennings 36th and Emma McKinstry 49th - all of them relieved just to have survived a difficult day.

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