Sunday 22 May 2016

Rally - Happy Krismeekmas

It could be argued that Kris Meeke had a better start number on Friday than WRC series leader Sebastien Ogier who had to run first on the road doing the sweeping, but what is indisputable is that Kris made the most of it.

Leaders from the second stage to the end, Kris and Paul Nagle produced a masterful performance at Rally de Portugal to claim their second World Championship win. This win, Citroën’s 95th victory in the WRC, was just rewards for the hard work of the Abu Dhabi Total WRT at its first gravel rally of the season. Having rejoined this morning under Rally2 regulations, Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau and Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson made it to the final podium.

Armed with a healthy 45.3-second advantage, Kris and Paul could afford to manage their lead. Whilst Andreas Mikkelsen dislodged Sébastien Ogier from second place, the Citroën Racing crew controlled proceedings at the front. After the first runs on Vieira do Minho and Fafe, they still held a 35.5s lead. At the end of the Fafe stage, Kris and Paul could finally relax after claiming their second win in the WRC, finishing 29.7s ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen!

At the finish Kris said: “First and foremost, I must thank the entire team and PH Sport for the work done this weekend. We have secured this win against top-level competition so the performance is especially important for me as a driver. Before the start, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Although I’ve done a lot of testing over the last few weeks, I was clearly short of competitive mileage. But I managed to drive quickly and led pretty much from start to finish, managing my lead from Saturday afternoon onwards.”

“I was cautious again today, as there were quite a lot of embedded rocks on Fafe, especially on the second pass. It really is a very special feeling to win here. The atmosphere is incredible, with some of noisiest and most passionate fans in the world. They say that getting that first win is a monkey off your back, but it feels like this one is just as important. There aren’t too many drivers that have won a WRC rally, but there are even fewer who have won two! We’re now going to try and build on this result for the next few races and especially in 2017 to be compete at the highest level!”

He summed up: “It was nearly a perfect weekend, a text book performance. It’s another step for me as a driver. This year is all about gathering experience and I couldn’t have done any more. We’ll use these rallies this year for our benefit and try to mount a title challenge next year.”

After set-up changes to his Volkswagen Polo R Andreas Mikkelsen grabbed second from team-mate and championship leader Sébastien Ogier who suffered two punctures today. With just one spare wheel in his Polo R, he compromised his pace to ensure he completed the final Power Stage and reach the Matosinhos finish after topping up one of the flat tyres with air.
Dani Sordo finished fourth after his hopes of a podium ended yesterday due to stability issues with the rear of his Hyundai i20. Eric Camilli claimed a career-best fifth in only his fifth start in a World Rally Car. The Frenchman had a broken handbrake in his Ford Fiesta RS today and a final stage spin almost allowed Jari-Matti Latvala to catch him. The gap was 5.3sec.
Latvala completed the rally with blistered and bandaged hands after wrestling his Polo R through the twisty mountains on Friday with broken power steering. Mads Østberg was almost three minutes behind in seventh in another Fiesta RS after downshifting problems and a broken driveshaft cost time.

Two WRC wins - here’s hoping there will be many more for the man from Dungannon.

1, Meeke / Nagle (DS 3 WRC) 3:59:01.0
2, Mikkelsen / Jaeger (VW Polo-R WRC) +29.7
3, Ogier / Ingrassia (VW Polo-R WRC) +34.5
4, Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:37.1
5, Camilli / Veillas (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:01.6
6, Latvala / Anttila (VW Polo-R WRC) +4:06.9
7, Ostberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:53.6
8, Prokop / Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +10:24.1
9, Tidemand / Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +11:45.2
10, Fuchs / Mussano (Skoda Fabia R5) +13:14.0

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