On the opening stage Meeke was third quickest – 3.7 seconds behind Ogier, whose team-mate, Andreas Mikkelsen, was only a half a second behind. Indeed, Mikkelsen moved into the lead after the second stage, the former Fastnet Rally winner was second quickest on the stage but it was enough to propel him to the top of the leaderboard, a mere 0.4 of a second ahead of Ogier with Meeke just four seconds further behind.
Much was expected of local hero Robert Kubica but he rolled his Ford Fiesta WRC on the second stage. However, thanks to his many fans, he was back on the stage within 30 seconds to hold 11th overall. Hyundai’s Juho Hanninen posted the best stage time to move into fourth, 5.3 seconds off the lead. Meanwhile, Jari-Matti Latvala (VW Polo) was off the pace on the opening stages and was 21.2 seconds off top spot.
Ogier regained the lead on the Super Special stage where Meeke was fourth fastest to retain his third position.
Last year’s winner, Garry Jennings (S12B Subaru RC), heads the entry for tomorrow’s Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park Rally. Jennings, who had a disappointing outing in the Donegal International Rally, will be co-driven by Michael Moran. Although seeded at number two, Donegal winner Declan Boyle has withdrawn his entry, leaving multiple Lurgan Park winner Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC) as the main opposition. Derek McGarrity (Mini WRC), Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC), Jonny Leonard (Mitsubishi), Derek McGeehan (Mini WRC), Emma McKinstry (Subaru WRC), Paddy McVeigh (Subaru WRC) and James Gillen (Subaru WRC) complete the seeded top ten.
Former Irish Forest champion, Pat O’Connell has also entered along with Fermanagh’s Jonny Leonard (Mitsubishi). In the Mk2 Escort Challenge category, Wesley Patterson, Frank Kelly, Martin Teggart, Adrian Hetherington and Eugene Ferry are the principals. Consisting of eight stages, the first competitor off the start ramp is at 10.15am with the finish timed for 5pm.
The Dooley’s Hotel Raven’s Rock Rally in Waterford features a stage tomorrow evening and nine more on Sunday with European Rally Championship contender and local hero Craig Breen heading the entry in the Kel-Tech liveried Ford Fiesta WRC. He is using the event as a shakedown for his WRC outing in the same car in Rally Deutschland in August. Having debuted a World Rally Car in the Rally of the Lakes, where he finished second overall, Castleisland driver Alan Ring is eagerly awaiting a second outing in the Mel Evans hired S12B Subaru WRC. Naturally, Breen is expected to win comfortably but Ring, along with Dunlop regular Steve Wood and Eoin Doyle (Ford Focus WRC), should have a good battle. Others on the list are Eddie Power (Toyota Corolla WRC) and the Escorts of James Coleman, Gary Kiernan, Chris Armstrong, Vincent O’Shea and Michael Conlon. The rally is the third round of the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship and in the absence of series leader Wesley Patterson Baltimore driver Stephen Carey (Honda Civic) has an opportunity to move into the lead.
Irish driver and current Billy Coleman award recipient Daniel McKenna will renew combat with Welsh ace Osian Pryce on the Scottish Rally, round three of the British Rally Championship that begins this evening. The Citroen DS3 pair share the lead of the series. Galway’s Dean Raftery (Ford Fiesta R2) is also competing.
Meanwhile, the Motor Sports Association (MSA) has announced that the British Championship will be run by International Motor Sports (IMS), the governing body’s commercial arm from 2016. The series was put out to tender last March but only received two submissions. The decision means there will be no championship next season.
The action in the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship switches to Yorkshire and the Croft Circuit where the series reaches the halfway mark on Sunday. Irish driver Colin Turkington in his eBay Motors BMW 125 leads the championship — nine points ahead of Honda Yuasa Racing’s Gordon Shedden. Dubliner Aron Smith (Volkswagen CC) lies ninth overall.
Rally Poland (Round 7, World Rally Championship) Positions after S.S. 3: 1. S. Ogier/J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo WRC) 17m. 49.2s; 2. A. Mikkelsen/O. Floene (Volkswagen Polo WRC) 17m. 52.0s; 3. K. Meeke/P. Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) 17m. 56.2s; 4. J. Hanninen/T. Tuominen (Hyundai i20 WRC) 17m. 57.0s; 5. M. Ostberg/J. Andersson (Citroen DS3 WRC) 17m. 58.1s; 6. T. Neuville/N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 18m. 10.3s.