Belfast Telegraph

Meeke 'happy' to sit sixth after challenging start to Rally GB


By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke was in sixth place after the first leg of Wales Rally GB, a leg dominated by Welshman Elfyn Evans.

And despite being 40 seconds off the pace, Rally Catalunya winner Meeke insisted he was "happy" with his driving on a day when he described the slippery forests like "Monte Carlo on gravel".

The Ulsterman's mood was in sharp contrast to Thursday night when, after an abortive shakedown test, he criticised his Citroen team for preparing for the rally in the south of France rather than in Wales.

Setting only the 16th fastest time of the night, he said: "When you don't prepare so well it is not easy.

"We plucked a set-up from the air. It's tricky to look at a bit of paper (with the set-up details) and then go and do what we're doing. When you don't prepare correctly, then that's what happens."

Overnight changes to the C3 improved its handling and Meeke was as high as second at one point yesterday before falling back to finish the day in sixth as Evans, last year's Ulster Rally winner, headed a trio of Ford Fiestas at the front.

Evans set five fastest times in six stages to open up a useful 24-second lead over his M-Sport team-mates Ott Tanak and Sebastien Ogier, who were separated by just two seconds, with Hyundai's Thierry Neuville filling fourth position.

Toyota's Jari-Matti Latvala overhauled Meeke on the final stage of the day, the 35km of Hafren, but the Finn was only a tenth of a second ahead of the Ulsterman.

It was, however, a disappointing day for team-mate Craig Breen, who lost over a minute with a puncture in the morning and then went off the road in the same Hafren stage in the afternoon.

Further back, British Junior champion Callum Devine was in 31st place, 18th in WRC2, on his debut in an R5 Fiesta.

The young Claudy driver made a late decision to step up from his title-winning R2 Opel Adam and drove the Ford in earnest for the first time during shakedown but was acquitting himself admirably on his first WRC appearance.

Marty Gallagher was 42nd, second in the Junior category, in his Peugeot behind European champion Chris Ingram's Opel.

William Creighton's rally, however, proved to be short-lived, the young Ulsterman's Peugeot stopping on the first of yesterday's stages at Myherin.

Belfast Telegraph


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