Belfast Telegraph

Intercontinental Challenge: Kris Meeke going to Scotland to sign off in style

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke will take a final bow as Intercontinental Challenge champion on next month’s Rally of Scotland.

With his IRC title poised to pass to Skoda’s Juho Hanninen after the Finn’s second place on the Sanremo Rally at the weekend, Meeke’s Peugeot UK team are now expected to skip the final round of the series in Cyprus.

And as he prepares to move on to the World championship as part of the new BMW Mini project, the Dungannon driver will go to his “home” round in Scotland determined to end his reign on one last high note.

All hopes of reeling in Hanninen were ended with a disappointing fourth place in Sanremo. He’d won the Italian round last year and led again this time only to see his hopes of a second victory evaporate with a costly spin on the final stage of the first leg on Friday night.

It was the monster 30-mile Ronde stage through the foothills of the Italian Alps in darkness that cost the Ulsterman dear, his Peugeot spinning into a wall in damp conditions and damaging a rear wheel.

He dropped almost half-a-minute to eventual winner Paulo Andreucci, the veteran Italian going on to take the victory for Peugeot ahead of Hanninen.

“We made crucial mistakes at crucial times and they cost us,” he said. “The Ronde stage was always going to be critical and we got the tyre choice wrong because it wasn’t as wet as had been predicted. But the spin was down to me — it was my mistake.”

He was still on course for a podium finish until the final stage where a stunningly fast finish by his former Peugeot team-mate Freddy Loix, now driving for Skoda, edged Meeke back to fourth. Meeke’s fellow Ulsterman Niall McShea was forced out before the first stage when his Proton suffered engine failure and Guy Wilks retired from ninth place after crashing his Skoda on the first stage on Saturday morning.

But the sport is in mourning for Jimmy Girvan, a two-time Scottish champion, who was killed on the Colin McRae Rally, an event which uses several of the same stages as the Rally of Scotland.

Belfast Telegraph

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