Belfast Telegraph

Meeke is looking for more Mexican magic

Bright outlook: Kris Meeke is savouring life with Toyota
Bright outlook: Kris Meeke is savouring life with Toyota

By Sammy Hamill

South America has taken Kris Meeke on an amazing rollercoaster ride, bringing him wins in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

But it has also been the scene of an horrendous accident in Argentina and his heart-stopping trip through a spectator car park on his way to victory in Mexico in 2017.

Now the Dungannon driver returns to Mexico this weekend in optimistic mood after rebooting his World Championship career with Tommi Makinen's Toyota team. He sits fourth in the drivers' table and has played his part in taking Toyota to the top of the manufacturers' Championship with solid performances in the first two rounds in Monte Carlo and Sweden.

Mexico offers a totally different challenge for the drivers and cars, the heat and the high altitude straining the engines and draining power by as much as 20 per cent. It has been a problem in the past for Toyota, but team boss Makinen is confident they have solved their cooling issues.

And buoyed by the renewed confidence his recruitment by Toyota has given him after being sacked by Citroen, Meeke is eager to get to grips again with the Mexican gravel.

"Mexico is a place I've gone well in the last few years - I won in 2017, and last year I was in the fight for the victory and finished third. Now with a different car, a car I really enjoy driving, I hope to be competing at the sharp end once again," he said. "Monte Carlo and Sweden were events with very complicated conditions where it would have been easy to make a mistake. But we got through them and scored useful points for the team.

"Here it is usually a lot more consistent, and I'm looking forward to it."

Meeke will, of course, he hoping there is no repeat of the bizarre incident two years ago when, with victory seemingly in the bag, his Citroen flew off the road on the final stage, landed in a hospitality area and he had to weave his way through parked cars before hopping over another hedge and re-joining the road.

He and his then co-driver Paul Nagle still won the rally - just!

Meeke's team-mate Ott Tanak leads the Championship after his Swedish victory with world champion Sebastien Ogier -Meeke's replacement at Citroen - in second place.

The rally begins tonight with a spectacular super-special stage through the colourful streets and tunnels of Guanajuato.

Meanwhile, Donagh Kelly, a five-time winner of the West Cork Rally, leads the seeding list for next week's two-day event, which is a round of the Irish Tarmac and British Championships.

Kelly missed the Galway International after his new R5 Skoda Fabia was damaged during pre-event testing but he is hopeful it will be ready for St Patrick's weekend.

Craig Breen, the Galway winner, is at No.2 in a list that also includes British champion Matt Edwards.

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