Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ended day one of Wales Rally GB in second place as the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team look to secure the runner-up spot in the Manufacturers’ World Championship.
Although the rain was conspicuous by its absence during today’s opening leg of Wales Rally GB, the roads remained very slippery throughout the stages contested in the centre of the country, between Newtown and Aberyswyth.
Kris Meeke made a strong start to the day, grabbing second overall after SS2. And whilst Jari-Matti Latvala and Thierry Neuville retired during the morning loop, Mads Østberg established himself in fourth place.
Our goal is to finish second in the manufacturers’ championship so we are in the perfect position for the rest of the event.
With no midday service, just the chance to fit new tyres, Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg picked up where they left off in the afternoon. They consolidated their positions, with Kris Meeke grabbing a fine stage win on the 32.14 kilometre-long Hafren 2, avoiding the punctures that blighted some of their rivals.
With the first six stages completed, the Ulsterman is just thirteen seconds behind the leader Sébastien Ogier. Mads Østberg is fourth overall, around ten seconds behind Andreas Mikkelsen.
Weakened by a bout of flu and still learning about rallying at this level in the third DS 3 WRC competing at Wales Rally GB, Stéphane Lefebvre ended the leg in the top 10.
In the FIA Junior WRC, the Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby leads the category at the end of day one, trailed by British driver Chris Ingram and the Belgian William Wagner.
Day two of Wales Rally GB is due to get underway at the ungodly hour of 5am. SS7 (Gartheiniog) starts at 7.29am, just before sunrise. Seven stages will be held before the crews reach service. Two night stages are then scheduled, before the cars return to Deeside from 9.17pm.
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Our aim was to set a strong pace at the start to try and get ahead of our direct rivals in the championship, whilst not taking any risks. Our crews made a very good start to the race on what was a typically tough day at Wales Rally GB. Kris was fast, which augurs well for the rest of the rally, and Mads also showed good pace and consistency. We now have a small cushion heading into the next two days of the rally, but there is still a long way to go.”
Kris Meeke: “Our goal is to finish second in the manufacturers’ championship so we are in the perfect position for the rest of the event. We got off to a strong start because I had a very good feeling in the DS 3 WRC. When you feel confident in the car, it’s much easier to set good times, even when conditions are as tricky as those we had today.”
Mads Østberg: “We found the right rhythm on the very slippery roads. Fourth position overall is very much in line with our target of holding onto second place in the manufacturers’ championship. That’s our number one priority and we mustn’t lose sight of it. I’m pleased with our performances and I hope we can keep driving just as fast tomorrow.”
Stéphane Lefebvre: “I tried to improve as we completed more stages. During the second loop, we managed to reduce the gap to the stage-winning time to less than second per kilometre. Unfortunately, I span the car on the final stage and I ended the day with a hard point on the steering. Overall, though, the afternoon went very well. We have to keep up this pace.”