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Yet more misery for Meeke as he crashes while leading in Italy

 

By Sammy Hamill

Another disastrous rally for Kris Meeke. The Dungannon driver crashed out on the first morning of Rally Italia in Sardinia.

And for the second World Championship round in a row, he was leading at the time.

Worse still for his Citroen team, Craig Breen was also forced to retire when his car suffered a damaged gearbox on just the third stage. It left the French team with just one car remaining, the C3 of new recruit Andreas Mikkelsen who was back in ninth place, well over a minute behind the leading Hyundai of Kiwi Hayden Paddon.

Rally Mexico winner Meeke had been vying for the lead with the Toyota of former Circuit of Ireland winner Juho Hanninen over the first four stages yesterday and had just edged ahead of the Finn and Paddon when he touched a bank with the rear of the Citroen and flipped it onto its roof.

Spectators rolled the car back onto its wheels and Meeke completed the stage, dropping seven minutes, and returned to the midday service break in Alghero.

But FIA scrutineers observed damage to the C3's roll cage and ruled the car could not continue in the rally.

Citroen's deputy team principal Marek Nawarecki said: "It was a disappointing morning but the positive thing was the pace of Kris - this was good and he was leading provisionally. But after this mistake, we have no possibility for him to continue.

"It was important for Kris to finish the rally and to bring some manufacturer points."

Breen, meanwhile, was sidelined yesterday when a heavy landing over a jump split the gearbox casing.

"For Craig it was bad luck," said Nawarecki. "He hit a rock after a compression on the jump and the gearbox was damaged."

At the front of the rally, Paddon led at the end of the first leg, eight seconds ahead of Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville with Ford's Ott Tanak third.

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