Citroen’s troubles in Oz bring Meeke’s season of high and lows to an end
Kris Meeke and his Citroen team have been left to lick their wounds at the end of a World Championship rally season which carried such high expectations but failed to deliver.
It finished as so often this year with their engineers recovering damaged cars from the forests of Rally Australia and only Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle making it to the end in seventh place, albeit courtesy of Rally 2 rules.
Craig Breen, their most consistent driver this year, went out in spectacular fashion on the final leg, his C3 somersaulting over and over again, thankfully without injury to the Circuit of Ireland winner or co-driver Scott Martin. Minutes earlier Stephane Lefebvre had hit a tree stump.
It was left to Meeke, a winner in Mexico and Spain, to salvage a lowly seventh place on a rally where he was, as he has regularly done this year, contesting the podium places. In second position for most of the first leg, the Ulsterman was still third when his Citroen brushed the side of a bridge on Saturday afternoon.
It seemed so inconsequential he barely noticed it until several kilometres later a damaged suspension arm broke. But when he and Nagle couldn’t effect a repair the team advised them to retire.
They weren’t to know the next forest stage would be cancelled, leaving only the short spectator special at Coff’s Harbour to complete the leg and the overnight support of the Citroen service team.
“It was frustrating because, with the stage cancelled, I’m sure we could have made it, still in a good position,” said Meeke.
Thierry Neuville took his fourth win of the season for Hyundai ahead of Ford’s Ott Tanak and Hayden Paddon in another Hyundai.