German mission accomplished for composed Meeke
At last! After string of disappointing results Kris Meeke finally delivered for Toyota, taking a solid second place in Rally Germany behind his team-mate Ott Tanak, now the clear leader of the World Championship.
And with Jari Matti Latvala in third place, it was a total triumph for Toyota, taking all three places on the podium for the first time as well as maximum points in the all-important manufacturers' championship.
It was a fifth victory of the season for the brilliant Tanak, the young Estonian now leading the drivers' standings by 33 points from Hyundai's Thierry Neuville and 40 ahead of World champion Sebastian Ogier. Meeke is up to fourth, putting an end to a run of poor performances which have seen him score just six points in the last four rounds.
But this was a different Meeke, the Andorra-based Ulsterman and co-driver Seb Marshall intent on supporting Tanak, keeping Neuville and Ogier at bay and helping Toyota close the gap on Hyundai in the manufacturers' table.
Meeke succeeded on all counts, cutting out the errors which have cost him dear and finishing on the podium for the first time this year.
"It feels great to get that first podium of 2019," he said. "It could have happened four, five or maybe even six times this season already, but for punctures, other issues and mistakes I've made. So I'm pleased for the whole team that I was able to play my part in a one-two-three.
"Our goal was to score as many manufacturers' points as possible and with Ott fighting for the win with Neuville we were focused on making sure we stayed ahead of the other Hyundais of Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen.
"As it turned out, our approach paid off with a trouble-free run and we managed to avoid punctures in the Panzerplatte stages where others like Neuville and Ogier picked them up. It was mission accomplished."
Meeke was just 21 seconds behind Tanak at the finish and 15 ahead of Latvala with the Hyundai's of Neuville and Sordo back in fourth and fifth. Ogier had a nightmare rally, finishing seventh and declaring at one point he "couldn't drive" the Citroen.
Closer to home, Josh Moffett clinched the Irish National Championship by winning the Galway Summer Rally in his WRC Ford Fiesta, his sixth victory in seven rounds. Cathan McCourt was second in hisR5 Fiesta.
Meanwhile, Ivor McCullough swept to a hat-trick of Formula Ford victories at Kirkistown, including winning the third of three races in the visiting Avon Tyres UK Championship.
A former Northern Ireland champion, McCullough is largely a part-time competitor these days, but he was the dominant driver at the weekend, even denying his brother David maximum points in both rounds of the Dawson-WAM Northern Ireland series.
However, two second places allowed David to increase his lead in the standings ahead of Alan Davidson who was third in both races.
The UK championship rounds saw three different winners with Michael Eastwell taking the first of them, Ross Martin the second and then McCullough rounding off a good weekend for the Ballymena brothers.
Other winners on the 500 Club's weekend of racing included double victories by Paul O'Connell (BOSS Ireland), Paul Cousins (Mazda/Fiesta) and Barry English (NI saloons/Seats) and Matthew Nicholl (Ginetta Juniors). Jim Larkham and Ivor Greenwood shared wins in the Roadsports race.