Belfast Telegraph

Meeke is optimistic he can navigate the road to redemption

 

Shaky ground: Kris Meeke has had a number of poor results
Shaky ground: Kris Meeke has had a number of poor results

By Sammy Hamill

If Kris Meeke had to pick any event to redeem himself after a run of horror results it would hardly be Rally Germany. He has few good memories of one of the most notoriously difficult rounds in the World Championship calendar.

Bumpy and narrow corkscrew vineyard tracks, daunting multi-surface tank training roads and smooth country lanes make a unique challenge in the Saarland region of south west Germany and Meeke has often had trouble mastering them.

He missed the rally last year after being sacked by Citroen but in the previous five years he has finished just once, in 12th position, and in 2017 he crashed on the opening spectator stage.

However, it might have been the scene of Meeke's first WRC victory when, in 2014, he inherited the lead after his now Toyota team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala crashed his VW Polo on the final morning.

However, one stage later, Meeke crashed his Citroen too.

And he starts the rally tonight on the back of a string of accidents which have been damaging not just for himself but Toyota, too, in their bid to retain the Manufacturers' Championship.

Despite the stunning performances of Ott Tanak, who has won three of the last four rounds and leads the drivers' standings, Toyota trail Hyundai by 24 points with Andorra-based Ulsterman Meeke contributing little since Argentina back in April.

Team boss Tommi Makinen has said he believes Meeke loses concentration, leading to what the driver himself has admitted were "stupid mistakes" but despite everything he says he is optimistic he can deliver a good result for the team.

"I've had a great feeling with the Yaris WRC so far on asphalt and I hope that we can find that again this weekend," he said. "It's always a really demanding event because of the three different types of terrain and, on top of that, the weather is often changing from one stage to the next.

"But it's a rally where I've been competitive in the past and I really hope that we can secure a good result for the team."

He will almost certainly need to for with Tanak confirming he is staying with the team for 2020 and youngsters like Kalle Rovanperra and Takamoto Katsuta now featuring in the Toyota picture, Meeke is on increasingly shaky ground.

The brilliant Tanak, who has won in Germany for the past two years, has a 22-point lead over world champion Sebastien Ogier, with Thierry Neuville in third place a further three points behind.

After a promising start to his Toyota career, Meeke has slumped to a disappointing seventh, 120 points behind his team-mate but still ahead of an equally inconsistent Latvala.

Meanwhile, Josh Moffett needs only a top-eight finish on Sunday's Galway Summer Rally to clinch the Irish National Championship.

In contrast to the Tarmac Championship, where he lost his title to Craig Breen last weekend, Moffett has been in imperious form in the Triton Showers national series, winning five of the six rounds so far in his WRC Ford Fiesta.

Roy White remains his only challenger but with only one more round after Sunday the former champion's hopes of overtaking him are slim.

Belfast Telegraph

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