Belfast Telegraph

Breen flys Citroen flag as Meeke suffers Monte setback

By Sammy Hamill

It certainly wasn't the start Kris Meeke - or Citroen - wanted to the Monte Carlo Rally and the new era of the World Championship. Both their next generation C3 cars were out of contention after just four stages on their debut appearance.

The Ulsterman was forced to stop with broken suspension on stage four and team-mate Stephane Lefebrve went off the road on just the second stage on Thursday evening.

It left Craig Breen in the third team car, a 2016-specification DS3, as the leading Citroen driver in sixth place as Belgium's Thierry Neuville led the way for Hyundai at the end of day two.

It had started promisingly for Meeke when, despite a safety first start, he was in third place after the first two stages on Thursday night. Then he moved up to second on the first stage yesterday morning, 16 seconds behind Neuville and ahead of the Ford of Ott Tanak.

World champion Sebastien Ogier, driving for Ford for the first time, was one of several drivers to fall foul of the icy conditions, his Fiesta sliding into a ditch. He was able to recover but was back in eighth place.

On the second stage of the day Meeke was right on the pace according to the split times but nearing the end of the 25 kilometre stage his Citroen skated wide on the ice on a fast left-hand corner, clipped a rocky bank and broke its suspension.

He was forced to abandon for the rest of the leg but was expected to re-join this morning under Rally 2 rules albeit with heavy penalties.

Neuville, meanwhile, continued to lead at the front, 45 seconds ahead of a recovering Ogier with Tanak in third. Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth on the debut appearance of the new Toyota Yaris although team-mate Juho Hanninen was another to crash off the road.

Dani Sordo, in the second of the Hyundais, was fifth ahead of Breen with Andreas Mikkelsen leading the WRC2 division in his Skoda in seventh.

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