Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen consolidated their second position throughout day two of the rally. After Kris Meeke and Chris Patterson went off the road, all hopes of a good result for the Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team rest with the Finnish pair.
The second leg took the crews to the south of Coffs Harbour, on stages held on the gravel roads of New South Wales. The competitors kicked off the day by tackling the 50 kilometre-long Nambucca, the rally’s longest stage!
Kris Meeke also consolidated his fourth position in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT’s other DS3 WRC: “As requested by the team, I’m not trying to battle with Thierry Neuville. My aim is above all to make it to the end of the rally. On these very fast stages, I’m especially cautious. I feel good in the car and hope to continue to rack up more experience this afternoon.”
Unfortunately, the Northern Irishman’s good intentions didn’t prevent him from going off the road on SS13. The no.3 DS3 WRC rolled seven times down a steep hillside, leaving the Brit no option but to retire from the leg. “It’s quite simple. I made a mistake by braking a little bit too late. The car turned into the corner, but we ran wide and slipped off the road and down a steep bank into a field. We rolled several times, very slowly,” explained Kris on his return to the service park. “I’m terribly disappointed, for myself but especially for the team who had put their trust in me. I’m just very sorry.”
Citroën Racing’s mechanics will do everything they can to repair the car in time for the crew to rejoin the race tomorrow under Rally2 rules.
This unfortunate incident meant Mikko Hirvonen had to be a little more cautious in holding onto his second position. Forty seconds off the pace, winning the rally seems beyond Mikko unless the leader runs into trouble. “There’s not much to say about this afternoon’s loop. The second runs were very hard on the tyres and so I tried to look after them,” explained Mikko. “My aim for tomorrow will be to hold onto second place. Another podium finish would enable us to score some important points.”
Continuing their disciplined race, Khalid Al-Qassimi and Scott Martin moved up to ninth position following Kris Meeke’s retirement. “When I don’t feel confident, I find it hard to push,” admitted the Emirati. “Starting in first position on the road didn’t make my job any easier, especially on the first stage where there was a lot of loose dirt. I tried different driving styles and we have worked on the set-up. We’ll continue with the same approach tomorrow.”