MEEKE ON THE PACE IN SHAKEDOWN
CITROËN’S Kris Meeke has proved himself to be a man on a mission, as the world’s best rally drivers begin the Australian leg of the World Rally Championship battle.
Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle posted the fastest time (2m:52.9s) on their third run over the Coates Hire Rally Australia ‘shakedown’ stage in their Citroën DS3 WRC.
While he is not planning to throw caution to the wind, the Irish-born driver is keen to erase memories of last year’s trip Downunder, when he rolled
early in the event before recovering to be sitting in second on the final stage. Then he lost a wheel, not only dashing his own hopes but elevating Thierry Neuville higher up the order and effectively denying Sébastien Ogier the chance to wrap up his first championship during the Australian event.
In his first full year with Citroën, Meeke has had a mixed bag of results. He crashed on the final morning in last month’s round in Germany, having just inherited the lead for what could have been his first win. He certainly hopes to repeat or improve on his third place finishes in Monte Carlo, Argentina and Finland.
While the 4.98km gravel section plays no role in determining the result of the rally, it served as the last chance for crews to fine-tune the cars before competition begins tomorrow for the 10th round of the 13-event series.
Second quickest was Meeke’s Citroën teammate Mads Ostberg, while Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, who won the previous round in Germany, was third fastest. Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth while his teammate, reigning champion Ogier shared fifth place with Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen, a three-time winner of this event.
In the ‘ANZAC’ division, Kiwi driver Hayden Paddon posted the seventh quickest time, while his Hyundai teammate – Australia’s Chris Atkinson – was the slowest of the 11 tier-one drivers, in what is only his second WRC event for this year. His previous event was Mexico, where he finished seventh.