Meeke setback leaves him playing catch-up on leaders
A chastened Kris Meeke was up to sixth place but making no impression on the leaders at the end of day two of the Monte Carlo Rally.
The Ulsterman's challenge for a first Monte win was compromised right from the start on Thursday night with a bizarre incident on the opening stage when he reversed off the road and lost more than half a minute which dropped him to 10th place.
Last night he had climbed up the leaderboard to sixth but was over two minutes behind the leading Ford of Sebastien Ogier. Meeke's Citroen team-mate Craig Breen was further back, in 10th, after an even more troubled start.
Like so many others, including Ogier, Meeke spun harmlessly on ice on the first stage, but as he backed up to get his car pointing in the right direction again he reversed off the edge of the road and got stuck.
Spectators got the C3 Citroen going again but critical time was lost and Meeke's hopes of starting the season with a win had gone.
Yesterday, on wet, muddy roads, he adopted a cautious approach, explaining: "The conditions were really tricky and in the position I'm in I didn't want to do anything stupid. I need to wait for somebody else to make a mistake."
Breen was also off the road on the opening stage but lost just 40 seconds. However, he tackled the next stage with the front tyres of his Citroen under-inflated and dropped a further half a minute.
Then yesterday a stone jammed in the front wheel, breaking off the bleed nipple and leaving him with no brakes for almost all of the opening loop of three stages. He slipped from fifth to finish the day in 10th.
But almost no one escaped the opening two legs unscathed. Even world champion Ogier was off the road twice, a second incident yesterday allowing Ott Tanak, on his debut drive for Toyota, to close to within 12 seconds of the lead.
Dani Sordo was the leading Hyundai driver in third place - team leader Thierry Neuville lost four minutes stuck in the snow on the first stage - and he was closely followed by the Toyotas of former Circuit of Ireland winner Esapekka Lappi and Jari Matti Latvala.