Saturday 29 October 2016

Rally - Underway in Wales

The opening leg of the International Dayinsure Wales Rally GB served up plenty of drama and incident. At the end of day one, during which the crews covered more than half of the total stage distance, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle are in very much in the hunt for a place on the podium.

After an early start on Friday morning the cars headed south after leaving Deeside at 5.30am. Following a 130km road section, the competitors set off in Myherin in the fog on the opening stage. 32km of wet roads later, the Abu Dhabi Total WRT crews experienced contrasting fortunes. Craig Breen was immediately up in fourth position, whilst Kris Meeke was sixth. Learning about the typically Welsh conditions was a trickier task for Stéphane Lefebvre (13th) and Quentin Gilbert (21st).

The morning continued with Sweet Lamb before the crews tackled Hafren (35km). Kris Meeke moved up to third position, whilst Craig Breen fell back to sixth overall. Meanwhile, Stéphane Lefebvre and Quentin Gilbert both gained several positions.

The morning loop concluded with Dyfnant, before the crews headed to Newton Service, where they fresh Michelin LTX Force tyres were fitted.

In the opening few kilometres of the second, still foggy, pass on Myherin, Craig Breen went off the road. After rolling his car several times, the Irishman was forced to retire. Kris Meeke dropped to fourth position, whilst Stéphane Lefebvre sneaked into the top 10.

Positions changed as showers and patches of fog made life difficult. After reclaiming third position, Kris ended the leg fifth overall, just 5.8 seconds adrift of third place. Stéphane Lefebvre headed for the service
park in ninth position, whilst Quentin Gilbert ended the day fifteenth.

After Craig Breen made it back to the service park, the team examined his car with a view to him rejoining tomorrow under Rally2 rules. Unfortunately, the car was too badly damaged and so Craig has therefore had to retire from the rally altogether.

Last night, Kris commented: “It was a very, very long day! We weren’t expecting the conditions to be so difficult, with a lot of rain and fog. We also know that it’s in this type of situation where the lack of development on the car tends to show the most. I feel that I did my best and I enjoyed driving out there today, even though I was bit frustrated when I saw my times at the end of the stages! We’re not far off the podium, so we go again tomorrow!”

Craig Breen added: “We had a good morning; the level of performance was enough to put me in the top five. I still had a bit of moment at one point so I was trying to get the balance right between pushing and being cautious. I wanted to use what we had learned during the first pass this afternoon, but we were a bit unlucky on SS5. The car skidded and the front hit a bank on the inside of a corner. We did several rolls and we weren’t then able to get away again under own steam. It’s frustrating, but these things happen in rallying.”

Meeke finished the day over a minute behind rally leader Sebastien Ogier in the VW but holding second place was Ott Tanak in the Ford. Oddly enough, at the pre-rally press conference, Kris reckoned Tanak would be the dark horse, courtesy of the rapidly improving DMack Tyres. Mind you, Ott wasn't so sure when he left the Start in the warm dry-ish conditions yesterday morning but he was happy to see the rain as he drove south and the wet, muddy stages when he got there.

1. Ogier / Ingrassia (VW Polo R WRC) 1:44:31.2
2. Tänak / Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +37.3
3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:09.0
4. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:12.8
5. Meeke / Nagle (DS 3 WRC) +1:14.8
6. Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:07.2
7. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:37.3
8. Latvala / Anttila (VW Polo R WRC) +3:43.6
9. Lefebvre / de Turckheim (DS 3 WRC) +4:31.6
10. Lappi / Ferm (Skoda Fabia R5) +4:55.0

(Thanks to Citroen for the pics)

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