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Meeke shaking it up ahead of his title defence in Rally Mexico

 

By Sammy Hamill

It was just the momentum builder Kris Meeke needed as he prepared to begin Rally Mexico, the third round of this year's World Championship.

The winner in Mexico in sensational fashion last year, Meeke was fastest through the shakedown stage ahead of the ceremonial start in Leon last night, the Citroen driver from Dungannon edging out the Hyundai of Championship leader Thierry Neuville and the Ford Fiesta of world champion Sebastien Ogier.

Meeke's team-mate this weekend, nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb, back after a five-year absence, was 10th, four seconds slower than Meeke.

Meanwhile, Donagh Kelly, winner for the past four years, heads the entry list for next week's West Cork Rally, the opening round of the 2018 Irish Tarmac Championship.

But while Kelly tops the seeding list in his WRC Ford Focus, he and his fellow Donegal driver Declan Boyle, whose WRC Ford Fiesta will carry No.3, won't be adding to the Tarmac titles they have won in the past.

Their more powerful WRC cars are no longer eligible for a Championship which is now headlined by the R5 cars such as the Ford Fiesta of current champion Sam Moffett.

The Monaghan driver, who also won the Irish National and Forestry titles in 2017, will start at No.2 with his brother Josh at No.4 in his identical R5 Fiesta.

Robert Barrable returns to the series in another Fiesta at five ahead of the Ulster trio of Jonny Greer, Desi Henry and Eugene Donnelly.

All three of them are scheduled to drive new R5 cars, Northern Ireland champion Greer in a Citroen DS3 which is still being built by his DGM team at Carryduff, Henry switching from Skoda to Ford and former champion Donnelly making a comeback to the Championship in a Hyundai.

The noticeable absentee is Alastair Fisher, the Championship runner-up for the past two years.

Belfast Telegraph

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