Belfast Telegraph

Meeke in happier place as he challenges for lead in Rally Catalunya

 

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke was in third position, and in a happier place, after the first leg of Rally Catalunya.

He had his mojo back and was fighting at the front of World championship rally for the first time in months. Overnight he was just three seconds off the pace being set by Hyundai debutant Andreas Mikkelsen and the Ford Fiesta of World champion Sebastien Ogier.

However, having set fastest times on two of the six gravel stages, Meeke was "a wee bit frustrated" not to be leading after spinning his C3 Citroen at the end of the fourth stage and dropping "five or six seconds".

"A wheel caught the lip of the tarmac and spun me round. I had to stop and reverse but other than that I'm happy," said the Dungannon driver who has struggled since winning Rally Mexico back in the Spring.

A series of accidents saw him lose confidence in the troublesome C3 and he was dropped from the team for Rally Poland, putting questions marks over his Citroen future. It has since been confirmed Meeke will be part of the team next season and with his wife Danielle down from their home in Andorra with his two little daughters, he is relishing the fight again.

Mikkelsen, who replaced Meeke in Poland but has since signed for Hyundai, was the surprise of the day, adapting quickly to the i30 Hyundai and swapping fastest times with Meeke and Ogier who was just over a second behind last night.

Behind them were the Fords of Ott Tanak and Mads Ostberg with Dani Sordo's Hyundai sixth.

Further back Jon Armstrong was in 22nd place, 10th in the WRC2 division despite a nightmare start with punctures on each of the first two stages.

Meanwhile, Derek McGarrity and Marty McCormack are additions to the line-up for today's Donegal Harvest Rally based at Dunfanaghy. Declan Boyle and Peadar Hurson head the list.

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