Belfast Telegraph

Citroen struggle in Meeke's absence

 

By Sammy Hamill

Their two cars were still there at the end of Rally Italia's day one in a soggy, wet Sardinia but other than that there was little to cheer up the beleaguered Citroen team.

In their first World championship rally since sacking Kris Meeke, the French team were off the pace with Mads Ostberg in fifth place and Craig Breen seventh, thanks largely to the retirements of Andreas Mikkelsen and Ott Tanak.

Ostberg and Breen were already a minute and more behind the leader, World champion Sebastien Ogier in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta.

Meeke was dismissed after one too many accidents, a huge car-destroying crash in Rally Portugal, but he was one of the few drivers who could challenge Ogier or Hyundai's Thierry Neuville, this season's World championship leader.

Neither Ostberg nor Breen could get close yesterday, the best they could do was one second fastest time by Ostberg and a fourth by Breen as Ogier and Neuville fought for supremacy at the top of the leaderboard.

In fairness, Breen was plagued by a malfunctioning handbrake which stalled his C3 WRC numerous times, leaving him fuming.

"I'm happy to get to the end of the day," he said. "It's been so very tricky in the conditions and the handbrake issue didn't help."

At the front, Ogier had opened up an 18-second lead over Neuville with Jari-Matti Latvala a further 17 seconds back after his Toyota team-mate Tanak stopped on the final stage of the day with some damage to the colling system.

Belfast Telegraph

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