Belfast Telegraph

Meeke suffers more Portuguese pain as late crash costs him podium place

 

Mea culpa: Meeke takes blame
Mea culpa: Meeke takes blame

By Sammy Hamill

Another Rally Portugal disaster for Kris Meeke; another catastrophic crash which he accepted was entirely his fault.

Exactly a year after the huge accident which ended his Citroen career, the Dungannon driver blew a podium place and crucial manufacturer points for his new Toyota team within sight of the finish yesterday.

It had been his strongest rally for Toyota, running in the top three throughout, even closing to within three seconds of his team-mate and leader Ott Tanak.

But then, as has happened so often, Meeke messed up. He spun his Yaris WRC on the penultimate stage, dropping 17 seconds and slipping to third behind the Hyundai of Thierry Neuville.

Cutting a hairpin too tightly, a front wheel caught the inside of the track, wiping the rear round. Lost in his own dust and struggling to find the right gear, seconds ticked away as he found a way out.

But worse was to follow. Clearly fuming at his mistake, Meeke went charging into the final Power Stage and made an even bigger error. Again cutting a corner too tight, the Yaris clipped a hidden tree stump and broke the steering. End of rally.

"My fault," he tweeted afterwards. "Just caught the hidden tree stump with the steering open and that was that. Gutted. Really wanted to bring home the perfect team result after a tough weekend."

His Toyota team boss, Finn Tommi Makinen, perhaps struggling to find the right words in English, said Meeke had been "mentally disturbed" by the earlier incident and this led to the last stage crash. "It's a big disappointment but that's rallying. I'm sorry for him and the team."

The winner in Chile, Tanak made it two in a row with a 16-second victory ahead of Neuville with world champion Seb Ogier inheriting third place from Meeke for the Citroen team.

In contrast to Meeke's red mist approach, Tanak coolly eased off towards the end of the Power Stage to ensure he didn't take the maximum bonus points which would have given him the world championship lead and the disadvantage of running first on the road in the next round in Sardinia.

Meanwhile, Josh Moffett won the Circuit of Munster, chalking up his third win in four rounds of the Triton Showers Irish National Championship.

Reigning Tarmac champion Moffett in his WRC Ford Fiesta had been involved in a tight three-way battle for the lead with Donagh Kelly and 2018 national champion Declan Boyle.

They were separated by just four seconds when Kelly's WRC Ford Focus stopped on the seventh stage with throttle sensor failure, leaving Moffett to ease away from Boyle over the final two stages.

Roy White was third in another WRC Fiesta with Cathan McCourt fourth in a WRC Subaru.

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