Rally France: Major Mini boost but Meeke trailing
For the first time in some 40 years a Mini was top of the leaderboard of a World championship rally last night.
It wasn’t Kris Meeke out in front after the first day of Rally France but his Spanish team-mate Dane Sordo who had edged his way ahead of the Citroens of Sebastien Ogier and Petter Solberg.
But Ulster’s former IRC champion Meeke was in fourth place as the BMW Mini team enjoyed their best day on only their fourth event since returning to the WRC series after a gap of four decades.
Sordo, the team’s tarmac specialist who was second for Citroen last year, leads by just one second.
But it was still a landmark day in which he ran consistently in the top three and overhauled both Ogier and Solberg on the final stage of leg one.
They are covered by less than three seconds.
Meeke, competing on the event for the first time, was a further 50 seconds back in fourth after spinning his Mini Countryman on the last stage but he remained ahead of the Ford duo of Jari-Matti Latvala and World title contender Mikko Hirvonen.
But Sebastien Loeb’s bid for an eighth successive World title suffered a major setback when he was forced out on the second stage, his Citroen suffering engine failure.
British F2 champion Marty McCormack led the two-wheel-drive division until stage seven but a puncture dropped his DS3 Citroen back to 26th place behind the Ford Fiesta of another Irish driver, Craig Breen.
In 24th place overall, Breen also led the WRC Academy category by 24 seconds from Spaniard Yeray Lemes with Ulster’s Alastair Fisher in third.