With Citroen poised to make a decision about driver line-up for season 2015, Kris Meeke did his hopes a power of good with fourth place overall on Rally Australia last weekend. But, had it not been for a penalty, he and Paul Nagle might well have finished on the podium in their Citroen DS3 WRC.
The 1m 1s penalty was awarded after Kris and Paul cut a corner on SS10. That time difference made a one place difference in the finishing order.
It was the curse of the TV camera that caught them out when their Citroen DS3 left the road before a left-hand corner and drove across a grass dip before rejoining.
Meeke told Stewards that while he had always intended to cut the corner, he had approached it too quickly and ended up taking a bigger cut than he had planned.
He said he had realised the inside area of the corner was clear of people and he had not gained any time advantage. He apologised for the lapse, and added that he was aware that his driving was not in the spirit of the rules. The stewards decided to penalise him by dropping him one place in the classification.
At the rally finish, Kris said: “It’s a bit of a strange feeling … To be honest, I think this is my strongest performance so far this season, even though we have finished fourth with the penalty. Seb and Jari are still out of reach for the moment. In Finland, in Germany and this week in Australia, we have been fighting at the front. This is my first full season in WRC, but I feel I’m getting stronger and stronger. We’ll have to keep it up at the Rallye de France.”
As for team mate Mads Østberg, he smacked the tail of his Citroen on a gravel banking and deranged the rear suspension costing him a top ten finish.
As things turned out, Volkswagen took a clean sweep of the podium placings and clinched this year’s Manufacturer’s WRC title.
In the M-Sport/Ford camp, Elfyn Evans had to give best to a resurgent Mikko Hirvonen finishing in eighth place, but he was lucky to finish at all. On the second day a branch pierced the radiator of the Fiesta WRC forcing Evans and Daniel Barritt to pull over to make a ‘Welsh fix’. This got them through the next stage before M-Sport technicians fitted a new radiator for the second loop.
Elfyn Evans said: "Our objective wasn't to show speed here this weekend. It was all about learning the stages and the environment. Even though it was a little frustrating at times, I think we managed to do that. I think we showed some good pace as the third car on the road today and the driving felt a lot more natural and better than it had been previously. We've learnt the stages and got a good set of notes so I think we're in a position to come back much stronger next year. These stages are amazing and I can't wait to come back and drive them at full speed."
Final Provisional Results:
1, Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:53:18.0
2, Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +6.8
3, Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:18.0
4, Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1.44.0
5, Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:53.6
6, Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:56.2
7, Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:28.2
8, Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:10.0
9, Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:39.8
10, Chris Atkinson / Stéphane Prévot (Hyundai i20 WRC) +9:29.4