Meeke eager to hit back after challenge deflated
It was the worst possible start to the Tour de Corse for Kris Meeke - and it hadn't got any better by the time the opening day of the World Rally Championship round finished.
In an upbeat frame of mind after setting the fastest time during Thursday's shakedown test, Meeke's mood soon changed when his Toyota Yaris sustained a puncture on the opening stage, costing him close to a minute and dropping the Dungannon driver to 14th.
He rapidly made up ground, climbing into the top 10 only to undo all the good work when he clipped a kerb, breaking the rear suspension, on the penultimate stage of the day.
He returned to the service park in Porto Vecchio last night in 16th and already almost four minutes off the lead which was being set by former Ulster Rally winner Elfyn Evans in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta.
The Welshman was four seconds ahead of Meeke's Toyota team-mate and World Championship leader Ott Tanak with Hyundai's Thierry Neuville a further five seconds back.
Meeke, who sits fourth in the World Championship after his first three rallies with the Toyota team, admitted the first stage puncture was his own fault. "We got our pacenote for the corner wrong and cut in too far, hit something and the wheel went down immediately," he said.
A fastest time on the next stage and two more in the top three saw Meeke back up to ninth until the encounter with a kerb on the narrow Corsican roads damaged the Toyota's suspension. It cost him 30 seconds and a further two minutes as he nursed the Yaris through the final stage.
Inadvertently, he held up rally leader Evans who was following behind but couldn't pass on the tight, twisty roads. Meeke was quick to apologise but the organisers quickly compensated Evans for the delay and he remained in front overnight.
Dani Sordo (Hyundai), Teemu Suninen (Ford) and World champion Sebastien Ogier (Citroen) completed the top six.