Sunday 24 January 2016

Rally - Meeke's Monte

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were forced to retire from Rallye Monte Carlo yesterday afternoon leaving new team mates Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau to take up the cvhase and they finished in fifth place overall last night.

As is often the case at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, the day began with some serious discussions about tyre choice. With damp patches having an annoying habit of turning into ice, both Abu Dhabi Total WRT drivers decided to opt for Michelin Pilot Sport SS5 tyres (super soft slicks) for the 51km-long “Lardier et Valenca – Faye” stage.

Forced to cope with dirt pulled onto the road by the four cars ahead of him, Kris Meeke finished about ten seconds behind Sébastien Ogier. The loop continued with “St Léger les Mélèzes – La Bâtie Neuve”, including a section several kilometres long on the slopes of the Ancelle ski station. With a mix of slicks and studded tyres, the drivers had to perform something of a balancing act Kris Meeke fell another ten seconds behind the leader, but he was pleased with his performance back at the midday service.

The afternoon got off to the best possible start for Kris, who beat Sébastien Ogier to the stage win on SS11. The gap between the leaders was 26.8s at that point, with the third-placed Mikkelsen over two minutes back.

And then it all fell apart on the next stage. On a right-hand turn, the Northern Irishman’s car ran over a large slab of bedrock that had come loose, which ripped off the sump guard. Kris made it to the end of the stage, but he was forced to retire shortly afterwards due to the damage caused to the gearbox and the intercooler.

As there is no Rally2 service facility for drivers retiring on the Saturday, Kris and Paul will not be rejoining the rally today.

A disappointed Meeke said: “I was pleased with my morning, because my times were consistent with the road conditions that I had. There was a lot of snow and mud being pulled onto the road by the guys ahead. That’s just how it is, if I want to be first on the road in Monte-Carlo then I have to be world champion! Obviously, it’s bitterly disappointing to go out like this after coming through all the challenges of the last three days. It happened on the exit of a fast bend, I felt a big impact under the car even though I had taken the same line this morning. We now know that there was a large piece of bedrock that must have come loose as more cars completed the stage. Nevertheless, it was a strong performance we produced with Paul, the team and the car, so I’m pleased about that. It’s encouraging for the rest of the season.”

But what about young Evans in the WRC2 Fiesta? He was leading the WRC2 class by 2 minutes from Kremer in the Skoda at the end of Saturday, and both are in the top ten overall.

Last night Elfyn added: “The first stage [today, SS9] wasn’t what we wanted as we had to stop and change a puncture. We lost the lead momentarily but managed to get a good gap back to our rivals on the following speed test. After that, it has just been a case of managing the rest of the rally to secure the victory. There will be a lot of tricky sections tomorrow so we’re not planning to take any risks and will just focus on bringing the car home."

“I have to say that the car is absolutely incredible – everything and more than everyone expected. It’s really rewarding for the team to see that the performance is as good as we all hoped!”

Leaderboard after 13 (of 16) stages:
1, Ogier / Ingrassia (VW Polo-R WRC) 3h19:05s
2, Mikkelsen / Jaeger (VW Polo-R WRC) +1:59.7
3, Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:12.2
4, Ostberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:25.9
5, Lefebvre / Moreau (DS 3 WRC) +7:29.4
6, Tänak / Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +10:42.3
7, Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +10:44.5
8, Evans / Parry (Ford Fiesta R5) +17:14.5
9, Kremer / Winklhofer (Skoda Fabia R5) +2:11.9
10, Lappi / Ferm (Skoda Fabia R5) +19:38.1

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