KRIS MEEKE READY FOR ROUND TWO!
Contested under blue skies – a rare sight in this part of the world at this time of year – day one of Wales Rally GB went well for Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle. Battling at the front throughout the leg, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi crew is in contention for a podium place.
- The rally got underway on Thursday evening with a super special stage held on the Tir Prince trotting track. Despite the icy drizzle, a packed crowd gathered to watch the event's curtain-raiser.
- On Friday morning, the crews headed south after leaving service in Deeside. The day's schedule featured two passes on Myherin (SS2/SS5), Sweet Lamb (SS3/SS6) and Hafren (SS4/SS7). With no service during the leg, there was only a tyre-fitting zone at midday in the small town of Newtown.
- On SS2, Kris Meeke was quick off the mark. Second fastest on the stage behind the almost unbeatable Evans, the Northern Irishman moved up to fourth overall. He gained another place on SS4, to end the morning in third position.
- This first leg also began well for Craig Breen: sixth after SS3, the Irishman lost time, however, on the next stage. With a slow puncture on the front left-hand tyre, he lost a full minute and dropped out of the top ten.
- On the second pass on the stages, Kris Meeke's ninth position in the running order proved to be more of a handicap than in the morning. Fourth after SS5, he lost another two places on SS7. At the end of the day, the no.9 C3 WRC was sixth overall, but less than 18s off second place.
- Having picked up his form again, particularly in setting the fourth fastest time on SS5, Craig Breen then went off on the final stage of the day. The handful of spectators who found themselves near the incident tried their best to get the C3 WRC back onto the road, but there weren't enough of them to manage. Since the car was not damaged in the slightest, Craig and Scott will be able to return to action tomorrow under Rally2 rules.
- On a substantially different road surface to his previous appearances at the event, Khalid Al Qassimi struggled to find any grip throughout the day. The Abu Dhabi driver made it to the end of the leg in 28th position.
Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal: "We knew that our drivers would have a tough job today. Given their positions in the running order, it wasn't really a fair fight for them. Kris managed to make the most of his knowledge of the roads to stay with the leaders. He'll have more even conditions tomorrow and will certainly be able to confirm his performance. Craig also made a good start to the race, but he was unlucky. He made a minor mistake in a place where there weren't enough spectators to help him to get going again. But in any case, they both showed that the Citroën C3 WRC is on the pace on this type of surface."
Kris Meeke: "I'm very pleased with how today's leg went. I managed to maintain a good rhythm throughout the stages. To be honest, I don't think I could've done much more. I was expecting to have a hard time of it, given our position in the running order but the grip was actually pretty good this morning, when the mud cleaned a bit and you were left with the cobblestones. I think tomorrow should be even better, because the road conditions will be more even for all of us."
Craig Breen: "I tried to keep it neat and tidy, but we started by losing a minute this morning, with a slow puncture. I hadn't hit anything, so I was very disappointed to lose contact with the leaders so early in the rally. This afternoon, I spun the car and there was an enormous water hole. The front went in and we couldn't get out. It was a very small, simple mistake but we didn't get away with it. Thanks to the spectators for helping us!"
Khalid Al Qassimi: "It was a very tough day. I'm really not used to driving in conditions like these. Most of the time, it's been like driving on ice. We are going to work with the engineers to see if it is possible to make it easier to drive the car."
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:09:20.9
2. Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +24.6
3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +26.8
4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +37.1
5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +41.9
6. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) +42.0
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +52.0
8. Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:13.9
9. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:22.9
10. Hänninen / Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:43.5
… 28. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) +7:19.0
… 36. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +11:17.8