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Meeke is upbeat despite tyre woes

 

Looking up: Kris Meeke is enjoying his Toyota debut despite tyre trouble
Looking up: Kris Meeke is enjoying his Toyota debut despite tyre trouble

By Sammy Hamill

Day two of the Monte Carlo Rally proved a disaster for Kris Meeke and his new Toyota team.

A promising start saw the Toyotas of Ott Tanak and Meeke sitting first and second after the opening stage on Thursday night, but it all began to fall flat with punctures spoiling their hopes of victory on the first World Championship rally of the year.

Meeke was hit hardest, slumping from second to eighth at the end of the second leg last night after his Yaris twice suffered broken wheel rims.

"It's actually three in total, including one on the shakedown stage, so there is clearly a problem," he said as he dropped over five minutes behind the fierce battle for the lead between the Citroen of champion Sebastien Ogier and last season's runner-up Thierry Neuville (Hyundai).

But the Ulsterman refused to be downbeat.

"The fact is, I'm enjoying it. This is my first time competing in a full WRC car in nine months or so and if luck had gone our way, we could have been looking at a podium. When everything's been working fine, I feel really strong in the Yaris," he added.

Tanak, who led overnight, also fell back when Toyota's crucial tyre strategy for the day was thrown into disarray when the first stage yesterday morning was cancelled because of spectator problems.

It led to team boss Tommi Makinen criticising the organisers and claiming all of the opening loop should have been called off as tyre choice was all important in the constantly changing conditions and cancelling one destroyed their plans for the whole loop.

His mood wasn't improved when Tanak also lost more than a minute with a puncture yesterday afternoon, dropping him back to seventh.

Only Jari Matti Latvala got through unscathed, leaving him the best-placed Toyota in fourth behind Hyundai's Andreas Mikkelsen.

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