Belfast Telegraph

There's no quick fix, but Meeke still smiles

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke was in third place at the end of the first leg of Rally Finland, again tracking the World championship winning Volkswagens of Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Ogier, but it could have been even better for the Dungannon driver.

Fighting back following criticism from his Citroen Racing boss Yves Matton after his crash on the shakedown stage in Poland, Meeke briefly led the rally ahead of World champion Ogier, but then suffered a mysterious transmission problem on the first of two runs over the signature Ouninpohja stage.

"I thought the car had broken a driveshaft," said Meeke.

"The front end had a mind of its own and I had to back off. With no service throughout the day I thought I was in real trouble, but it turned out to be something in the front differential.

"We couldn't fix it so I had to learn to drive round the problem. It certainly kept me focussed."

He and co-driven Paul Nagle gradually lost ground to the Volkswagens, falling 10 seconds back and then incurring a 10 second penalty when they were judged to have been late into the penultimate stage of the day, but with two fastest times and consistently in the top four, Meeke was far from downbeat.

"Despite the issue with the car it was still a good day. Without it maybe we could've been fighting at the front, but I'm happy."

He was 24 seconds behind leader Latvala, the Finn leading his VW team-mate Ogier by 2.6. Mads Ostberg in the second of the Citroen's was fourth, 10 seconds behind Meeke with the Hyundais of Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo completing the top six.

The first day casualties included Andreas Mikkelsen and Hayden Paddon, who both crashed heavily. Out, too, went Craig Breen, retiring his Peugeot with a blown engine and Daniel McKenna retired his Citroen after a heavy landing burst the radiator. The British champion from Monaghan had been second in the Junior division.

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