Kris Meeke aiming higher as he cruises into top 10
Kris Meeke finished the first full day of Rally Sweden in 10th place but he was far from downhearted.
"To be honest I couldn't expect much more," said the Ulsterman who is on his first snow rally. "If you try to run before you can walk in a place like this you'll fall flat on your face."
But Meeke didn't trip up. He drove well within himself to finish 46 seconds behind the Volkswagen of leader Sebastian Ogier and, indeed, was third best of the non-Scandinavian drivers.
French ace Ogier, the World champion, snatched the lead back from Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen on the final stage of the day and holds a six-second advantage with Finn Jari-Matti Latvala a further seven seconds back in third – an all-VW top three.
Estonian privateer Ott Tanak was the star of the day, taking fourth place in his Ford Fiesta ahead of Meeke's Citroen team-mate Mads Ostberg, another Norwegian, and Finn Mikko Hirvonen (Ford).
The new Hyundais of Belgian Thierry Neuville and Finn Juho Hanninen, the 2012 Circuit of Ireland winner, were seventh and eighth with Swede Pontus Tidemand (Ford) ninth, just two seconds ahead of Meeke who said he had concentrated on an error-free drive and had been ignoring the stage times.
"I've never been to Sweden before and I've never driven a snow rally so today was all about gaining experience and learning how to cope in these conditions," he said. "But it got better and better as the day wore on and I have to say I really enjoyed it."
In fact Meeke gained enough confidence to finish with fourth fastest time on the final stage, leaving him 14 seconds ahead of former F1 driver Robert Kubica and 24 in front of young Welshman Elfyn Evans, both in Fords. Craig Breen was 14th in his privateer Fiesta WRC.
Meanwhile, flooded roads have forced the organisers of the Galway Rally to make alterations to tomorrow's opening leg with the first stage dropped from the schedule and others shortened.
Missing from the starting list will be Derek McGarrity after the transporter carrying a trio of Minis from Motorsport Italia in Milan was delayed. But Garry Jennings is optimistic of taking his place in the line-up after treatment for a back injury.