Belfast Telegraph

Chile conditions proving difficult, admits Meeke


Kris Meeke
Kris Meeke

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke admitted the newest challenge in the World Rally Championship was proving to be just that - challenging.

The Dungannon driver finished the opening loop of Rally Chile stages in fifth place, already 27 seconds off the pace being set by his Toyota team-mate Ott Tanak.

It is the first time the WRC series has visited Chile and all the drivers struggled to master the conditions which ranged from slippery mud to polished clay surfaces.

Meeke and co-driver Seb Marshall had started strongly, sharing the lead after the first stage yesterday with another Toyota team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, but then the Ulsterman's confidence levels dropped and he struggled to commit to his pacenotes or set competitive times compared to Tanak and the Citroen of world champion Sebastien Ogier.

"The first stage went really well but then I just struggled with the conditions and the new notes," he explained. "It's very slippery, even when it looks like there's grip, and I just couldn't make it all work.

"Stages two and three were really difficult and it just didn't come together for me. The notes weren't perfect and with the sun coming through the trees, making it bright in places and dark in others, I wasn't confident and too hesitant over the crests.

"The roads are definitely much more slippery than I'd expected; it feels like the tyre can't bite into the surface, so you just end up sliding across the top of it. Rather than try to push under those conditions and make a bigger error, I elected to take a steady approach instead.

"So, tough conditions but we will see what happens."

Tanak had edged six seconds clear of Ogier with World Championship leader Thierry Neuville less than a second behind in third in his Hyundai. Latvala had pulled ahead of Meeke, who had the Ford of Elfyn Evans right on his tail.

Sebastien Loeb, back driving for Hyundai in place of Dani Sordo, was in seventh ahead of team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, with Ford's Teemu Suninen ninth and Esapekka Lappi 10th for Citroen.

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