Motorsport: Out of the reckoning for a podium position after sliding off the road on Friday, the Irish crew of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) recovered to win the Power Stage and finished 10th overall in Rallye Monte Carlo.
Reigning champion Sebastien Ogier led home a Volkswagen Polo R WRC top three – he finished 58 seconds ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala with Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen a further 1 minute 14.3seconds behind.
In the WRC2 category won by Sebastien Loeb protégé Stephane Lefebvre (Citroen DS3 R5) Waterford’s Craig Breen won the battle for the runner-up spot as he capitalised on the troubles of his rivals.
Daniel McKenna/Andrew Greenan (Citroen DS3 R3T) failed to start Saturday’s leg due to a gearbox malady while Wexford’s Eamonn Boland and his Waterford co-driver Mickey Joe Morrissey only managed Saturday’s opening stage before their Subaru was forced out with a mechanical problem.
Leading from the seventh stage Ogier measured his drive and went on to secure his 25th World Rally win. “Winning Monte-Carlo means a lot for every driver, but especially for me. It’s the most important rally of the season. The weather makes it a huge challenge but the satisfaction is great when you make it. When I drove the stage close to my home village the atmosphere was magical.”
Following the disappointment of Friday’s incidents that relegated Loeb and Meeke to 15th and 21st respectively, the Citroen team set their sights on winning the Power Stage. On yesterday’s opening stage Meeke went quickest. Then, on the Col de Turini stage (S.S. 14) Loeb claimed the 905th stage win of his World Championship career. Meeke, opted to save his tyres on the same stage before setting his third fastest stage time and taking the three points on offer for the Power Stage with Loeb second quickest – two tenths of a second behind and eighth in overall classification. Meeke said: “The aim was to try and score some points in the Power Stage in order to end the rally on a high. I managed the tyres on S.S. 14. That undoubtedly helped me to keep a 0.2-second gap at the end of the last stage. I won a few stages and we were quick. So that’s a very pleasing point.”
Stephane Lefebvre, the FIA Junior WRC champion was embroiled in a great tussle with Martin Koci (Ford Fiesta R5) until the latter’s car broke a driveshaft on Saturday. Breen ended the penultimate leg fifth in WRC2 – 22.1 seconds off second placed Armin Kremer (Skoda Fabia S2000).
Yesterday, within two stages, Breen was into second. Koci retired after hitting a tree on an icy section while another contender Eric Camilli (Ford Fiesta R5) lost over two minutes when he clipped a rock and damaged the suspension. Breen, benefitting from a change of settings in the Peugeot 208 T16 punched in the best times on the final pair of stages to secure second – 13 seconds clear of Kremer with Camilli fourth.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s Icebreaker Rally in Antrim fell victim of the conditions. Overnight snow led to icy conditions in the Ballyboley Forests and although number one seeds Desi Henry/Liam Moynihan (Subaru WRC) had two reconnaissance runs, the conditions failed to improve and the event was cancelled on safety grounds. In the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Cork racer Matt Griffin and his AF Corse team mates Michele Rugolo, Rui Agues and Pasin Lathorus brought their Ferrari 458 Italia home in fourth in the GTD class and 18th overall. An engine issue in the first quarter of the race cost them some 20 laps. Donegal’s Damien Faulkner (Porsche 911 GT America) racing with the GB Autosport team (Kuba Giermaziak /Mike Skeen/Rory Butcher/Michael Avenatti) were seventh in the same category and 21st overall.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved