KRIS Meeke was a convincing winner of Thursday’s shakedown at Corsica linea – Tour de Corse.
The Citroën C3 driver’s opening run through the 5.45km Sorbo Ocagnano special stage proved the benchmark, with a 2.2sec advantage over Andreas Mikkelsen’s Hyundai i20.
Wednesday’s afternoon rainstorms ensured mud was dragged onto the roads by drivers cutting corners. Times slowed quickly and everyone with the exception of Sébastien Loeb posted their fastest time during their first pass over the undulating test.
“It was quite a tricky little shakedown with humid conditions from the rain yesterday. My rhythm was quite OK and while the time isn’t so important, I was happy in the car,” said Meeke, who controlled last year’s rally before retiring with engine problems.
“In drier conditions everyone can trust the grip a lot more. The rally looks like it’s going to be more and more dry so the gaps will be very close. They were tricky unique conditions this morning which maybe we won’t see in the rally.”
Mikkelsen headed a trio of Hyundais. The Norwegian stopped the clock 0.8sec ahead of 2017 Corsica winner Thierry Neuville, with Spain’s Dani Sordo a further 0.5sec behind.
Championship leader Sébastien Ogier was fifth with M-Sport Ford teammate Elfyn Evans a second behind in sixth. While most completed just the minimum three runs, Evans did six, allowing stand-in co-driver Phil Mills, replacing the injured Dan Barritt, more opportunity to become acclimatised.
The rally was due to start in Bastia’s Place Saint-Nicolas on Thursday night (local time) and with sunshine forecast for the rest of the weekend, the stages are expected to dry and conditions should remain consistent throughout the 333 km journey.
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1 Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:00.8
2 Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4:03.0
3 Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4:03.8
4 Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4:04.3
5 Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:05.1
6 Evans / Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:06.1
7 Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:06.4
8 Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4:08.5
9 Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4:08.5
10 Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4:08.6