Old rivals Meeke and Loix lock horns again
Kris Meeke was locked in a battle with Belgian master Freddy Loix on the Ypres Rally last night.
In a repeat of their duel 12 months ago, when they were separated by less than a second after 200 kilometres, Meeke and Loix were again trading fastest times at the top of the leaderboard.
They were Peugeot team-mates then — and Meeke won — but now Loix has moved to Skoda in search of a record sixth Ypres win and at the end of the first leg he led the Intercontinental Challenge champion from Dungannon by six seconds.
But the good news for Meeke was that series leader Juho Hanninen was already out of the rally. The Finn crashed out on the fourth stage, joining a retirements list that already included Stephane Sarrazin.
The Le Mans race winner had been drafted in by Peugeot to support Meeke’s championship challenge but in a repeat of Rally d’Italia, when the Ulsterman’s team-mate Sebastien Ogier retired on the first stage, Sarrazin lasted no more than five kilometres before he crashed into a ditch.
His exit left Meeke in a familiar situation — fighting the Skodas virtually single-handed. Even with Hanninen out, he was the filling in a Fabia sandwich with Loix in front and Jan Kopecky just 16 seconds behind. And the specialist nature of the rally, which uses the narrow roads criss-crossing the flat farmlands of Flanders, was emphasised by the fact there were four Belgian drivers in the top six positions with Thierry Neuville fourth, Pieter Tsjoen fifth and Bernd Casier sixth.
Further back, UK Citroen C2R2 champion Marty McCormack was in 35th place but Danny Barry, the UK Mitsubishi Evo champion, suffered transmission trouble with his Lancer and dropped over 20 minutes on the first stage.