Rally Mexico: Meeke seals fourth WRC win despite late car park scare
|Sunday, March 12th 2017, 19:54 GMT|
Kris Meeke survived an excursion into a car park on the final stage of Rally Mexico to give Citroen its first World Rally Championship victory of the year.
The Northern Irishman had built a lead of more than 40 seconds over second-place man Sebastien Ogier before the final stage and looked to be in control of proceedings, before going off the road on the powerstage, narrowly avoiding a bunch of parked cars.
Meeke was however able to recover to the road, and claimed victory by an eventual margin of 13.8s - his fourth in the WRC and Citroen's first with its new-for-2017 C3 WRC car - in the most dramatic of finishes.
Such was his shock, Meeke could not climb onto the roof of his car at the end of the stage to celebrate and had to be helped up by co-driver Paul Nagle.
Meeke was second after Thursday's opening superspecial in Mexico City, and took the lead as soon as the Friday schedule - truncated after the morning's stages were cancelled as trucks carrying the cars back to Leon from the capital got caught in traffic - got underway.
While the M-Sport Fords, Hyundai and Toyota all struggled on the opening day with varying powerplant issues, Meeke sailed through relatively unscathed.
A spin at a key moment for a second consecutive event meant Ogier could not challenge for victory.
The Frenchman spun on Saturday afternoon when Meeke's lead margin had been just over 20s, and later lost another 10s.
But Ogier held a comfortable second all the while, with his podium finish allowing him to retake the championship lead and extend M-Sports manufacturers' points lead.
Thierry Neuville was left reeling from a fuel filter issue that plagued Friday, but was able to finish a rally for the first time in 2017 after crashing on the Saturday of the first two rounds in Monte Carlo and Sweden.
He took third in his Hyundai i20, and also grabbed the maximum five points for winning the power stage.
Ott Tanak finished off the podium for the first time in 2017 in fourth place, heading the second i20 of Hayden Paddon who, like Tanak, had dispatched the Toyota of Juho Hanninen to take his place on the leaderboard Saturday afternoon.
Jari-Matti Latvala took sixth in the lead Toyota Yaris, the Finn losing over two minutes sweeping the road with engine concerns on Friday and the championship lead in the process.
Latvala's team-mate Juho Hanninen took seventh despite suffering from illness all weekend, ahead of Dani Sordo - who had a rollercoaster event.
Sordo suffered the fuel filter issues that plagued his team-mates, but was also given a 10-minute penalty for not finishing Friday's superspecial that was later overturned.
Elfyn Evans was ninth, having been handicapped by a five-minute penalty for changing his engine pre-event.
The Welshman did however score another fastest stage time in his DMACK M-Sport Fiesta.
A titanic battle for WRC2 honours was decided on the penultimate stage as M-Sport and Skoda works drivers Eric Camilli and Pontus Tidemand duelled for the win.
Camilli had unseated Rally Sweden winner Tidemand on Saturday after taking chunks of time, including 20s alone on the first stage of the morning.
But on the penultimate stage of the day Tidemand took the lead back with a rapid time, combined with Camilli gambling on a wet set-up for rain that never arrived.
The Swede secured 10th overall and the win.
|1||Kris Meeke, P.Nagle||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen||3h22m04.6s|
|2||Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford||13.8s|
|3||Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||59.7s|
|4||Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford||2m18.3s|
|5||Hayden Paddon, J.Kennard||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||3m32.9s|
|6||Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC||Toyota||4m40.3s|
|7||Juho Hanninen, K.Lindstrom||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC||Toyota||5m06.2s|
|8||Dani Sordo, M.Marti||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||5m22.7s|
|9||Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford||8m41.8s|
|10||Pontus Tidemand, J.Andersson||Skoda Motorsport||Skoda||10m51.9s|