“Rally Mexico is a real one-off event,” opined Meeke. “Nowhere else do you get this combination of gravel, altitude (some 2,800 metres above sea level) and high temperatures. The car reacts differently in these sorts of conditions. You have to be more aggressive in the slower sections in order to carry as much speed as possible through the corners.”
Meeke was in strong positions in the opening two rounds only to drop out of contention for a top-four finish and has only picked up 10 points so far. “I was disappointed by my results in the first two rallies, despite winning stages in Monte Carlo and in Sweden. I have to eliminate the mistakes to score points and turn my speed into results. In Mexico, you have to avoid making any mistakes at all, because with the lack of air, you’ve got less engine power and the car is less responsive than usual. I’m going to run my own race and I think our starting position will be an advantage.”
Indeed, they should benefit from their lower starting position as championship leader Sebastien Ogier (VW Polo), Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) and Andreas Mikkelsen (VW Polo) run at the head of the field and will sweep a clean line for the cars behind.
Meanwhile, Tyrone’s Paddy McVeigh is the top seed for Sunday’s Ballina-based Mayo Rally and while the event continues to count as a round of the Sligo Pallets Border Championship, it’s not part of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship on this occasion but has still attracted more than 100 crews.
In recent months, he has acquired the ex-Patrick Elliott S12B Subaru WRC — regarded as one of the best of its type. His main rival through the nine stages is likely to be former triple national champion Niall Maguire. The Monaghan man campaigns an S11 Subaru WRC and finished a fine third in the opening round of the Triton series and was one of the three drivers who garnered points from the first ever Power Stage in Irish rallying.
Elsewhere, former national champion Aaron MacHale (Mitsubishi) spearheads the Group N challenge, where the opposition includes current Group N national champion Shane Maguire, Trevor Bustard and Pat Kirk, also in Mitsubishi EvoIXs. The top 10 is completed by the two-wheel drive cars of Jonathan Pringle, Damien Toner and Pat Donegan. Others on the entry are David Moffett (Starlet) Daniel Conaghan (Escort) Fintan McGrady (Escort) and Raymond Conlon (Toyota Corolla). Based at the Hotel Ballina, the first car away is at 9.30am.
In the BTRDA Championship, Paul Bird (Ford Focus WRC) heads the entry for the Malcolm Wilson Rally in the Lake District. Opposition will come from Dave Weston (Subaru WRC), Euan Thorburn (Ford Focus WRC), Hugh Hunter (Subaru WRC), Charlie Payne (Ford Fiesta) and Steve Petch (Ford Fiesta R5).
On Sunday, the Mel Evans Motorsport Tour of Epynt in Wales opens proceedings in the MSA Asphalt Rally Championship. Damien Cole (Ford Focus WRC), Steve Simpson (Subaru WRC) and Simon Mauger (Metro 6R4) head the entry. Also on Sunday, the Kerry Autosolo at Tralee Racecourse begins at noon.
The seeding for next weekend’s Quality Hotel West Cork Rally was revealed yesterday with last year’s winner Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) heading the capacity entry. The rest of the top 10 is as follows: 2. Declan Boyle (Subaru); 3. D. O’Riordan (Ford Fiesta WRC); 4. S. Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC); 5. M. Evans (Subaru WRC); 6. J. Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC); 7. O. Murphy (Mitsubishi); 8. J. Greer (Citroen Ds3 R5); 9. S. Wright (Ford Fiesta R5); 10. D. Gallagher (Toyota Starlet).
Meanwhile, Keith Cronin will drive the Subaru WRC belonging to his uncle Denis as 00 car on the Sunday stages. He will be co-driven by Scotland’s Stuart Loudon, who could partner the Ballylickey man in Rally Portugal, where Cronin will begin his assault in the WRC2 series.