Belfast Telegraph

Meeke plays his part as Tanak triumphs to put Toyota in front

 

Driving force: Kris Meeke
Driving force: Kris Meeke

By Sammy Hamill

It was job done by Kris Meeke in Sweden as Ott Tanak and the Toyota team celebrated their first win of the 2019 World Rally Championship season.

Sixth place may not have been the result he hoped for but the Dungannon driver played his part in taking Toyota to the top of the manufacturers' championship and he retained his fourth place in the drivers' standings which are now topped by the indomitable Tanak.

The Estonian, widely regarded as the fastest driver in the championship, was a convincing victor ahead of the Citroen of former Circuit of Ireland winner Esapekka Lappi and Hyundai's Thierry Neuville.

Meeke felt he could have been part of the fight for podium places but lost crucial positions when his Yaris stalled late on Friday evening. It dropped him from fifth to eighth and at a disadvantage in road position.

But with Jari-Matti Latvala out of contention after burying his Toyota in a snow bank late on Friday, it was crucial for Meeke to back up the flying Tanak and secure points in the all-important manufacturers' series.

He made no mistakes, claiming a second sixth place finish despite being under constant pressure from the Hyundai of nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb.

"It's been a tough old rally and after the problem on the first day we were always going to struggle with road position," he reflected.

"But it's two decent finishes at the start of the season with a new co-driver (Seb Marshall), new car and new team so I have to be happy with that."

Ahead of Meeke, Andreas Mikkelsen (Hyundai) was fourth and former Ulster Rally winner Elfyn Evans fifth for Ford.

Meanwhile, Marty McCormack began his British Championship campaign with a podium place in the Cambrian Rally in Wales, bringing his Skoda Fabia home in third place behind the Ford Fiesta of Matt Edwards and the Skoda of David Bogie.

Reigning champion Edwards led most of the way to take his first win on his home event after a close fight with fellow Welshman Tom Cave and Scot Bogie. But two late punctures forced Cave to retire, promoting McCormack to third ahead of two more Irish contenders, Desi Henry and Josh Moffett. Jonny Greer had been in the top six too but retired his Fiesta on the final stage with a burst radiator.

And the Irish contingent dominated the Junior category with James Wilson taking his first win in the series after edging out William Creighton who fought back to second after losing time with a puncture. Marty Gallagher, Josh McErlean and Jordan Hone completed an all-Irish top five.

Niall McCullagh was a late, late winner of the Samsonas Spring Rally in the forests around Fivemiletown after long-time leader Cathan McCourt crashed out on the final stage.

In fact the McCourt brothers had been running one-two in their R5 Ford Fiestas for the first half of the rally before Conor retired and then Cathan went off the road in sight of the finish despite holding a 37-second lead over Michael Carberry's Mitsubishi Evo.

But McCullagh came through to take the win in his Mitsubishi when Carberry stalled on the start line of the last stage. Martin Cairns was third in his new WRC Fiesta.

Belfast Telegraph

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