Dungannon driver Meeke and his Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle spearhead Citroen’s challenge for Rally Portugal that got underway with a short 3.36km super special stage held on the Lousada circuit last evening before eight stages today.
Meeke won here last year; however, the new generation Citroen is proving difficult. “I can’t say I’m overflowing with confidence. I think the work done in our recent test sessions will help us move in the right direction.”
Waterford’s Craig Breen has been the team’s most consistent performer this season. He has scored in his three rounds to lie seventh in the series on 33 points, six more than Meeke, who took 25 of his 27 points for winning in Argentina.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Rally, round three of the Prestone BRC series kicks off with two stages this evening and then eight more tomorrow. For ex-triple champion Keith Cronin it’s a crucial event as he seeks a much-needed victory to narrow the 43-point deficit to championship leader Swedish ace Fredrik Ahlin (Skoda Fabia R5).
Cronin’s strategy is now based on individual events: “If anything it (the points deficit) might take a bit of pressure off. Speed isn’t the issue really; in the first round we had the punctures and then it was the power steering on the last round and I was probably trying too hard to claw things back and went off. The others have to have some bad luck too, that is the way championships go.”
Ahlin is the top seed followed by Welshmen Osian Pryce (Ford Fiesta R5) and Tom Cave (Hyundai i20 R5) and home hero David Bogie (Skoda Fabia R5).
Last week’s Donegal Forest winners Derry’s Marty McCormack and his Mallow co-driver David Moynihan (Skoda Fabia R5) had a podium finish in the last round and should be full of confidence. Another Derry/Cork pairing Desi Henry/ Liam Moynihan, also in a Skoda Fabia R5, should also be in contention given they finished third in last year’s rally. Elsewhere this weekend, the Munster Autocross Championship continues on Sunday with Clare Autocross at Ballycumber, Co. Offaly that is also the opening round of the National Loose Autocross Championship.
Clare’s Brain Hassett and Clonakilty’s Paul O’Driscoll share top spot in the Munster series. In Bandon, at the Co-Op complex in Kilbrogan, the Norman Giles Autotest double header (tomorrow at 3pm and Sunday at 11am) will dovetail as rounds of the Premier Auto Parts Munster Autotest Championship and the Carbery Plastics Skibbereen & District Car Club Championship.