Kris Meeke knocked back from early lead Claiming nine stage wins from a possible 14 isn't always a guarantee of victory, as the reigning IRC champ Kris Meeke found out to his cost on last weekend's Rally Islas Canarias. The Peugeot 207 Super...
Kris Meeke knocked back from early lead
Claiming nine stage wins from a possible 14 isn't always a guarantee of victory, as the reigning IRC champ Kris Meeke found out to his cost on last weekend's Rally Islas Canarias. The Peugeot 207 Super 2000 driver dominated the event but dropped two minutes after picking up a puncture and had to settle for fourth spot, just ahead of Bruno Magalhaes in another 207 S2000.
A flying start from Kris Meeke
The IRC has an excellent habit of visiting countries where rallying is both highly popular and recognised as a sport in its own right. This, indeed, is the case in Spain's Canary Islands where the Rally Islas Canarias was this year organised for the 34th time. And the crowds were so impressive that one could be forgiven for thinking that the island's entire population had turned out to watch the mountainous asphalt stages.
This year's event was an even grander occasion than usual for them, since the field was led by the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge's main contenders, including the defending champion Kris Meeke. The Briton appeared at the top of the leaderboard after SS1 and then profited from the first seven stages to post five fastest times and pull gradually clear.
"My Peugeot 207 Super 2000 is incredibly stable and perfectly balanced. I feel very confident and I'm having no trouble pushing either myself or the car to the limit."
Meeke's lead after SS7 amounted to 17.9s over Kopecky, 22.6s over Hanninen and 44.2s over Wilks. Soon afterwards, however, shortly after the start of the day's final test, SS8, the chances of the Ulsterman were dealt a serious blow.
"I suddenly felt a knock while I was driving through a flat-out corner and my front-left tyre immediately lost all its air. There were still 25km to go, and I finished without stopping to change the wheel."
The incident saw Kris lose two minutes which dropped him to sixth overall and forced him to do all the chasing on the second and final day.
"It wasn't exactly the result I was targeting here," he admitted, "but these points could come in very useful at the end of the year."
Bruno Magalhaes on top form, but unlucky Meeke was followed home in the final order by Bruno Magalhaes who secured a fourth consecutive points finish. "I think a podium finish would have been on the cards," notes the Peugeot Portugal driver, "if a drive shaft hadn't popped out at the start of SS3. That cost me 25 seconds and obviously had a big influence on my result. A little later on, I threw away a bit more time on the high altitude stage."
The good run of Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg's youngster Thierry Neuville thwarted Peugeot's third man in the Canary Islands was less fortunate still. Thierry Neuville was making his debut in the Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg 207 Super 2000 and was running in a satisfactory seventh place until he was halted in his tracks by an off on the penultimate stage.
"I don't know what happened exactly. I had nothing to gain by pushing hard, so I decided to lift until the finish in order to make sure of scoring my team's first points. Perhaps that led to a drop in concentration? The fact is that I understeered and hit a rock. The car was undamaged but the impact broke a suspension arm. I only have myself to blame for the incident; I feel really bad about it."
Peugeot continues to figure in second place in the IRC's provisional Manufacturers' championship standings. Meeke is still fourth in the Drivers' points table, while Magalhaes has climbed to fifth.
Next round: Rally d'Italia Sardegna (June 4-6).