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Record numbers to watch Kris Meeke

Kris Meeke will perform in front of the biggest crowd of his career later today when he drives in the Fafe Rallysprint, the traditional curtain-raiser to the Rally of Portugal.

Staged near the city of Porto, it attracted over 100,000 spectators last year and similar numbers are expected this afternoon when Meeke and a selection of the world's top drivers will be in action.

It has no bearing on the World championship Portuguese round, which starts next Thursday, but with the main rally now based almost 600km south in Faro, the rallysprint has become a huge draw for WRC fans in the north of the country.

Meeke and his Abu Dhabi Citroen team-mate Mads Ostberg, who are to share one of their practice DS3s, will be up against Volkswagen's World champion Sebastien Ogier.

Also in the entry list is the Ford pair of Elfyn Evans and Ott Tanak as well as two-time Fafe winner Dani Sordo, now driving for the new Hyundai team.

Craig Breen, making his debut in Peugeot's new 208 T16, set the second fastest time over the qualifying stage for the Acropolis Rally in Greece.

His Peugeot Academy team-mate Kevin Abbring was quickest with rally favourite Easpekka Lappi (Skoda) third and top seed Bryan Bouffier (Citroen) only sixth. Breen elected to start in fourth position on the road behind the Skodas of Jaromir Tarabus and Sepp Wiegand with Abbring going third.

Meanwhile, Formula Fords top the bill for the opening race meeting of the season at Kirkistown today with the line-up headed by Brands Hatch Festival winner Niall Murray and reigning Northern Ireland champion Ivor McCullough.

Many drivers have already been in action down south in the opening rounds of the new Champion of Mondello series.

Neville Smyth and Stephen Daly were the winners although Murray set two poles and two fastest laps.

Belfast Telegraph