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Belgian rally tragedy puts Meeke exit in perspective

 

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke's return to competitive rallying was all too brief, with a blown engine forcing his retirement from his first event in six months.

But Meeke's exit after just four stages of the two-day Condroz Rally in Belgium was overshadowed by the death of a co-driver on Saturday.

Rik Vanlessen, who was partnering fellow-Belgian Steve Matterne, was killed when their Skoda Fabia hit an electricity pole at high speed on the sixth stage. Matterne was also taken to hospital suffering from a neck injury.

Meeke, returning to competition for the first time since being sacked by Citroen back in May, was in third place when the engine of the R5 Skoda Fabia he was driving for the Italian Metior team failed.

But he was quick to dismiss his early exit from the rally, saying: "Our own misfortune doesn't matter at all in the face of what happened to one of the other crews.

"We all love motorsport and rallying because of how exciting it is - for the drivers and navigators in the cars, for the team members who work so hard to keep the cars going, and for the fans who watch the action. But it's dangerous and sometimes it reminds us of that."

The Andorra-based Ulsterman said the rally had started "pretty well" for him.

"The car felt good, and I was just settling in. As I'd expected, the locals were really quick, but we were fourth after the first stage and then moved into third and were running a handful of seconds off the lead after SS4.

"However, in the fifth stage the engine on our Skoda suffered a big problem and it wasn't possible to continue."

The rally, a round of the Belgian championship , was won by Meeke's former Citroen team-mate Stephane Lefebvre driving an R5 C3.

Meeke has already tested with the Toyota team and will be back in Finland next week to continue preparations for next season when he will drive alongside Ott Tanak and Jari-Matti Latvala.

Belfast Telegraph

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