Belfast Telegraph

Kris Meeke happy to claim podium finish in Wales

By Sammy Hamill

There were no celebrations nor were there any last leg heroics from Kris Meeke on the final day of Wales Rally GB.

The champagne bottles stayed unopened as France's World champion Sebastien Ogier won for the eighth time this season and Meeke, in second place, brought home the vital points that ensured his French Citroen team finished ahead of Hyundai in the manufacturers' championship.

Instead, Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle joined the third placed Volkswagen crew of Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Floene in helping Ogier and Julien Ingrassia unfurl a French flag on the podium in a silent, sombre tribute to the victims of the Paris atrocity.

Being just 26 seconds behind Ogier after more than 300km of muddy, waterlogged stages in the Welsh forests might have brought a slight tinge of disappointment for Meeke - so close, yet so far - but he had said all along it was unrealistic to think about being the first British winner of the rally in 15 years.

"I was never going to take risks and get into a fight with Ogier," he said.

"The priority was to hold off the Hyundais and hope to be on the podium.

"I was able to tick both those boxes and do the job I was asked to do. I'm happy."

His role was even more critical when team-mate Mads Ostberg went off the road on Saturday, falling behind the Hyundais, making it vital Meeke finished in at least second place.

It meant no succumbing to his natural attacking instincts, no late charge for Power Stage points and none of the mistakes which have, at times, blighted his season.

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In fact, the Dungannon driver produced a near-perfect, professional performance for Citroen in horrendous, treacherous conditions, shadowing Ogier's VW throughout the three days and rebuffing the challenge of Mikkelsen as well as the Hyundais of Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon who finished more than two minutes behind him.

Ostberg was back in seventh, behind the Ford of Elfyn Evans, and like Meeke must wait for Citroen to decide on his future.

It seems unthinkable the Ulsterman, the driver who denied Volkswagen a clean sweep of all 13 WRC rounds by winning in Argentina, won't retain his place but he insists he has no contract with any team for 2016.

"But I do have a garden that is overgrown so I might have time to fix it," he said. It was a joke, right?

Meanwhile, Craig Breen was left frustrated after dominating the WRC2 division in his Peugeot but finishing third (13th overall) behind Finn Teemu Suninen(11th) and Frenchman Eric Camilli (12th).

The Ciruit of Ireland winner lost more than two minutes with a puncture on Friday but was little more than a minute behind at the end.

The Moffett brothers had their own private battle in the Ford Fiestas, the two of them finishing line astern in 14th and 15th with new Irish forest champion Josh just edging out Sam.

But there were problems for the rest of the Irish contingent with Jonny Greer going over maximum lateness when his Citroen misted up; Marty McCormack being stranded with a broken alternator on his Skoda and Rally-to-Wales competition winner Rob Duggan, who had been an impressive second in WRC3, forced to stop his Citroen with a broken pulley belt.

They re-joined under Rally2 rules but finished down the order, McCormack 46th, Duggan 47th and Greer 55th.

Belfast Telegraph


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