Belfast Telegraph

Meeke is thrilled to be in the mix as Toyotas dominate in Rally Portugal

 

Dust up: Kris Meeke battles the heat to claim third place on day one of Rally Portugal
Dust up: Kris Meeke battles the heat to claim third place on day one of Rally Portugal

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke was in third place and part of an all-Toyota top three at the end of the first leg of Rally Portugal.

Ott Tanak, who was the winner in Chile the last time out, led by 15 seconds from Jari Matti Latvala, with Meeke a further six seconds back at the end of an opening day in which the Dungannon driver was once again hampered by niggling problems with his WRC Yaris.

The failure of the intercom system saw Meeke's co-driver Seb Marshall resorting to hand signals to relay their pacenotes through the second stage, and then a dashboard light flashed on to warn that a tyre was deflating during stage five.

Neither cost a huge amount of time, just enough to drop Meeke back from his flying team-mate Tanak, but he was still quite happy with his start to a rally he won in 2016.

"It was a difficult day with the heat - 35 degrees - and the dust, and the incidents with the intercom and the warning light were distracting," said the Ulsterman afterwards.

"But overall our pace was good and we're in the mix for a strong result come Sunday."

Meeke was just over three seconds ahead of Thierry Neuville, who led the series until his heavy accident in Chile, but it was a disastrous day for his Hyundai team-mates Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo.

They both stopped at almost the same place on the third stage with suspected fuel system problems.

World champion Sebastien Ogier was in fifth place for Citroen, with Teemu Suninen sixth for Ford and young British driver Gus Greensmith, making his debut in an M-Sport WRC Fiesta, was up to seventh.

Meanwhile, at Silverstone, Daniel Harper ended two days of impressive testing ahead of his debut in the Porsche Supercup next month by topping the timesheets in two of the four sessions and finishing with the second fastest time overall.

The Hillsborough teenager currently leads the Porsche Carrera Cup GB series and will race as a guest driver in the Supercup race which supports the British Grand Prix in July.

He joined some 25 Supercup regulars from around the world for the two-day test and demonstrated he is more than comfortable in their company.

Only Frenchman Julien Andlauer, another of Porsche's junior drivers and already racing in the World Endurance series with the Dempsey Proton team, produced a quicker time over the two days, shading Harper by less than a second.

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