Meeke hits the front at Rallye Monte-Carlo
BRITAIN’S KRIS MEEKE WILL GO INTO THE SECOND DAY OF RALLYE MONTE-CARLO WITH A SLENDER LEAD AFTER EMERGING FROM THURSDAY NIGHT’S OPENING BRACE OF STAGES WITH A 6.9S ADVANTAGE.
The Abu Dhabi Total Team driver was beaten to the fastest time on the opening test by reigning world champion and local hero Sébastien Ogier.
But Meeke was in determined mood and hit back on SS2. He eclipsed his VW-driving rival by a staggering 11s through the 20.38km test and that was enough to give him his first stage win of the season and a welcome overnight lead. “Everything feels good,” Meeke beamed.
Ogier meanwhile, rued his cautious approach on the last five kilometres of SS2 where the road was covered in snow and ice. But he wasn’t about to panic. “I’m happy to be here. This is just the beginning of the rally,” he pointed out.
VW team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen kept out of trouble and was happy to fill third place at the end of the second stage, while Thierry Neuville – driving Hyundai’s new-for-2016 i20 WRC – was fourth, albeit 31.4s off Meeke’s benchmark pace.
Jari-Matti Latvala had held fourth after the opening stage but he hit trouble –literally – on SS2 and dropped to seventh at the end of the leg.
“I hit something on the first proper icy section,” he explained. “The car started to slide so I hit full throttle. I think we tagged a bridge or something and I was worried we might have damaged the rear suspension. We took it easy after that.”
Fifth place belonged to Hayden Paddon at the end of the leg. The fast-improving Kiwi was using the event to further develop his driving skills aboard last year’s Hyundai i20 WRC and he held a narrow 0.4s advantage over Mads Østberg after SS2.
The Norwegian was reacquainting himself with the M-Sport World Rally Team’s Fiesta, but the road conditions were hardly making it easy. “When you do a stage like this it’s impossible to judge the speed,” he said after SS2. “You find grip in some places and then it’s gone in others.”