Kris Meeke counts cost of mistakes at Wales Rally GB
There was final day heartbreak for Kris Meeke on Wales Rally GB.
Battling for second place behind World champion Sebastien Ogier and his best ever WRC result, the Dungannon driver drifted wide on a left-hand corner yesterday morning, dropping two wheels of his DS3 Citroen into a ditch then bouncing back onto the slippery gravel track with two damaged tyres.
Meeke still managed to close to within 1.6 seconds of Ford's Mikko Hirvonen in second, but with his only spare tyre fitted and nursing another which was moving on a back rim, his fight for the podium places was over; indeed it was now a struggle to reach the end.
With competitors banned from driving on road sections with flat wheels he knew another puncture, or if the tyre came off the rim, his rally would be over and with it Citroen's hopes of finishing runner-up in the manufacturers' championship.
He eased his way through the final three stages, dropping to sixth, but, combined with team-mate Mads Ostberg inheriting Meeke's third place, it was just enough to ensure Citroen finished behind Volkswagen but ahead of Ford and Hyundai in the standings.
How different it had been for the first two days with Meeke in the thick of the action from the first stage on Friday where he incurred a 10-second penalty for a jump start. It left him in 10th place but he clawed his way back, eventually snatching second from Hirvonen on Saturday afternoon before ending day two in third.
But his error on the first stage yesterday proved costly, leaving the Ulsterman disappointed and frustrated. "The conditions were very difficult, like driving on ice at times, and just about everybody made mistakes. But I made too many, just small ones, but they cost me in the end," he said.
But the question is: will they cost him his place in the Citroen team for next season? He desperately hopes not.
There were no mistakes from Meeke's fellow Tyrone driver Alastair Fisher who won the Junior WRC division in his Citroen. Fisher went out hard on Friday, establishing a strong lead and then kept the pursuing pack at bay. He and co-driver Gordon Noble saw off closest challenger Martin Koci by more than a minute and, added to their win in France, leaves Fisher as runner-up in the JWRC series, one point behind Frenchman Stephane Lefebvre.
There were strong showings too from Phillip Morrow who won the production category in 22nd overall with Josh Moffett second in 27th. Brendan Cumiskey was 37th and Dean Raftery 41st.