Belfast Telegraph

Polished finish is the best ever for Meeke

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke hailed his podium finish on Rally Finland as the best performance of his career – better than his third places in Monte Carlo and Argentina.

And better even than his victories en route to the 2009 Intercontinental Challenge title.

The Abu Dhabi Citroen driver, from Dungannon, finished third behind the all-conquering Volkswagens of home winner Jari-Matti Latvala and World champion Sebastien Ogier in the rally they call the 'The Finnish Grand Prix' because it is a flat-out race from start to finish.

"This podium is even more special than the others given the nature and the speed of this rally," said Meeke, as he and co-driver Paul Nagle celebrated their third top three finish of their first Citroen season.

"It takes total commitment and there is no margin for error.

"We kept in touch with the Volkswagens throughout the four days, even splitting them for a time, and to finish less than a minute behind a winner like Jari-Matti on his home event is very special."

Meeke became the first British driver to finish on the Finland podium in more than a decade and rounded out the rally by claiming a bonus point for third fastest time on the final power stage, which helped move him to sixth in the World championship.

Andreas Mikkelsen in the third of the VW team's Polos took fourth, over a minute behind Meeke with Mikko Hirvonen the leading Ford driver in fifth and 2012 Circuit of Ireland winner Juho Hanninen sixth for Hyundai.

There was a sad end for Craig Breen, who was forced to retire from ninth place two stages from the end when he injured his back on a heavy landing off one of the notorious Finnish jumps.

Unable to continue, the young Waterford driver was taken to hospital and detained overnight.

Alastair Fisher fought back from a string of problems, including punctures as well as gearbox and suspension troubles to bring his R3 Citroen home in 36th place, fifth in the Junior WRC category.

Meanwhile Derek McGarrity led from start to finish to win the Dogleap Rally at Ballykelly.

The reigning Northern Ireland champion won by 37 seconds from the Toyota Corolla of Alan McGeehan with Dominic McNeill third in a Mitsubishi.

Motorbike racer Michael Dunlop, driving a Ford Escort in just his second rally, finished ninth.

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