Relieved Meeke survives scare in strong start to bid for more Mexico joy
Kris Meeke made an encouraging start to Rally Mexico despite surviving a huge fright on the fourth stage on the first full day of round three of the World Championship.
The Ulsterman was in second place after the opening five stages, 15 seconds behind the Hyundai of Dani Sordo and three ahead of his Citroen team-mate for the weekend, Sebastien Loeb.
Aiming to repeat their 2017 Mexican victory, Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle, seventh overnight following the short street stage in Guanajuato, were able to take advantage of their starting position of seventh on the road to move into the lead on the first of the long gravel stages yesterday morning.
But they were pegged back by Sordi, running 10th and benefiting from even cleaner roads, who moved in front on the second stage of the day and the Spaniard consolidated his position, opening a 15-second gap before the cars returned to Leon for the first service break.
Meeke, however, was just happy to still be fighting at the front after hitting what he described as “a massive speed bump” on stage four.
The bump had even more severe consequences for Elfyn Evans, the 2016 Ulster Rally winner losing control of his Ford Fiesta and rolling several times. He managed to finish the stage but dropped more than two minutes, slipping from third to the bottom of the top 20.
Loeb, the nine-time world champion but making his first WRC appearance in five years, was another driver to benefit from his starting position. Running 11th, he was consistently in the top four times to slot into third place overall.
Ott Tanak was the leading Toyota driver in fourth ahead of the Ford of world champion Sebastien Ogier and the Hyundai of Andreas Mikkelsen.
Thierry Neuville, the Championship leader, was first on the road and struggled to cope with the loose gravel, ending the first loop of stages in seventh.