Meeke back on the charge
Kris Meeke is bound for Argentina, with his sights set on a South American double.
The Ulsterman put in a commanding performance to win the Rally de Curitiba in Brazil at the weekend and get his Intercontinental Challenge championship defence back in track after the disappointment of a Monte Carlo crash.
It was Meeke’s second Brazilian win for the Peugeot UK team and the fifth of his IRC career, making him the most successful driver in the history of the world Super 2000 series.
And despite a no-score in Monte Carlo, the Dungannon driver is up to joint third in the standings, four points behind leader Juho Hanninen.
He and co-driver Paul Nagle got their title challenge back on track in the Brazilian forests, leading from start to finish on a rally which was dogged by flooded roads and cancelled stages.
But Meeke was unfazed by the conditions, building a lead of more than half-a-minute on the first leg and then “managing” the threat from the chasing trio of Skodas through day two.
He finished 46 seconds ahead of two-time British champion Guy Wilks with Finn Hanninen third and Czech Jan Kopecky, last year’s IRC runner-up, fourth.
Both Hanninen and Kopecky in their factory-entered Fabias suffered punctures which dropped them out of contention, leaving Meeke to concentrate on keeping his arch British rival Wilks at bay.
“I think we got our strategy spot on,” said Meeke.
“The plan was to go hard and build a lead on day one, which we did, and then manage it on day two, going fast enough to discourage anyone from mounting an attack but staying in the middle of the road and taking no risks.
“It was a near-perfect result for us and it's great to have put all the experience of last year to such good use.
“It wasn’t easy with the roads flooded in some places and bone dry in others and three very good drivers chasing us.
“But we've learned to stay relaxed and control the lead. I know what it takes to win again.”
Portuguese champion Bruno Magalhaes (Peugeot) was fifth and Bolivian Eduardo Peredo (Mitsubishi) sixth.
Now Meeke and Nagle are flying down to Buenos Aires with their Belgian-based Kronos team for the Rally of Argentina which starts on March 19.
Meanwhile, Meeke’s fellow Ulsterman Jonny Greer finished in second place on the Malcolm Wilson Rally in the north of England at the weekend.
The 21-year-old from Carryduff swapped his usual production Mitsubishi for an 02 WRC Ford Focus — a belated prize for winning the UK Ford Fiesta series in 2007 — and steered it to the runners-up position, 17 seconds behind former British national champion Steve Perez’s 08 Focus.