Spills make Meeke's future uncertain
For all the good things Kris Meeke did on Rally Australia he failed to do the job he had been asked to do.
It had been spelled out to him he had to finish the rally and bring home manufacturer points for Citroen in the World Championship. He didn't deliver on either count and now his future hangs in the balance.
Drafted into the team to replace Spaniard Dani Sordo, the former Intercontinental Challenge champion from Dungannon rolled his Citroen DS3 out of fourth place on Saturday and then tore a rear wheel off during the final Power Stage yesterday.
It meant no finish and no points as Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier won ahead of Ford's Thierry Neuville and moved inexorably closer to his first World title.
Compounding Citroen's woes, a last stage puncture robbed Mikko Hirvonen of second place and allowed VW to open the manufacturers' gap to 48 points.
It had all started so promisingly when Meeke demonstrated his pace by setting fastest time in qualifying and running in third place through all but the last stage of the first leg.
On Saturday he set out to chase down the Ford Fiesta of Neuville but went off the road during the massive 50km 13th stage.
Despite his Citroen DS3 rolling over seven times down a slope and into a field, Meeke and co-driver Chris Patterson were unhurt and after it had been transported back to the service area in Coffs Harbour it was re-built in under three hours by the Citroen team.
It looked as good as new as Meeke set out for the final leg but he already knew his hopes of a permanent place in next season's Citroen team were more heavily damaged than the car.
It was his second accident in two appearances for the team and Citroen sport director Yves Matton was "not happy".
"He did not do what I asked him. Just the opposite. For sure, I am not happy," said Matton.
A devastated Meeke said: "I was here to do a rally with no mistakes, drive my own rhythm and that's what I was doing, but I made a mistake."
He added the accident was one of the most bizarre of his career. "I braked a little bit too late into a slow right and the car ran wide and slipped off the road. Unfortunately there was a steep bank into a field and we rolled over several times, very slowly," he said.
"I'm terribly disappointed, for myself but especially for the team who had put their trust in me."
He re-joined the rally in 12th place more than 16 minutes behind the leaders but another mistake on the final stage buckled the rear suspension.
"I'm thankful for the opportunity but sorry I couldn't deliver on my instructions," Meeke added.