Despite having rolled their Citroen DS3 WRC seven times in yesterday’s shakedown stage, Tyrone’s Kris Meeke and his Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3R3) made it to the start of last evening’s Super Special in the Lotos 72nd Rally Poland, round seven of the World Rally Championship.
The team replaced the rear wing, the doors, the front bumper and wing, bonnet and radiators after they rolled soon after the start of the stage.
Meeke, who was celebrating his 36th birthday, then stalled the car at the start of the Super Special and lost around three or four seconds.
When asked was his confidence down he responded: “Yes, when you get caught by surprise this morning for sure, it was completely unexpected. We have to wait and see what happens during the weekend.”
Today’s eight stages could be an indicator.
Overnight, Sebastien Ogier (VW Polo) led the Fiesta WRC of Robert Kubica by 0.5 of a second, Meeke was 17th, but only 4.1 seconds off top spot.
The traditional Easter weekend date for the Circuit of Ireland Rally has been shelved for next season as the event returns to the British Rally Championship for the first time in 25 years.
The new-look BRC will have a seven-round calendar with a mix of gravel and tarmac surfaces.
In the context of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship, the new Circuit date — two weeks after Easter — gives some breathing space between the West Cork Rally and the Circuit, although the latter has closed up on the Rally of the Lakes.
The inclusion of “a made-for-TV one-day special event” remains a possibility for next year — subject to discussions with broadcast partners and securing a suitable date and venue.
The 2016 BRC dates are: March 5/6 — Mid Wales Rally (Gravel); April 8/9 — Circuit of Ireland (Tarmac); April 29/30 — Pirelli Rally (Gravel); May 27/28 — Jim Clark Rally (Tarmac); June 24/25 — RSAC Scottish Rally (Gravel); August 19/20 — Ulster Rally (Tarmac); September 9/10 — Granite City Rally (Gravel).
The dates are subject to approval by the Motor Sports Association.
Recent speculation suggesting that the Circuit could be a round of the WRC next season is more related to funding for Rally GB rather than promotion for the Circuit that has European Rally Championship status.
Meanwhile, the MSA has suspended five-time Irish Tarmac champion Eugene Donnelly from holding a competition licence until June 2, 2016.
The suspension arises from Donnelly’s participation in the 6 Hour Fiesta race in Mondello Park last November.
At the time, the Derry driver signed a declaration that his current grade International Rally licence enabled him to compete in “race, rally and all other disciplines”.
However, Donnelly’s licence application showed that he only applied for a rally licence.
In addition to the ban, he was also fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £500 towards the costs of National Court.
On the home front, tomorrow’s Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park Rally is expected to draw the crowds. Garry Jennings (Subaru) is the top seed as he goes in search of a hat-trick of wins.
Eleven-time event winner Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC) will try and use his vast experience to deny Jennings.
Others in the top 10 are Derek McGarrity (Subaru WRC), Derek McGeehan (Mini WRC) and Welsh ace Melvyn Evans (Subaru WRC).
The ALMC Rally in Trim on Sunday has a strong overseas flavour due to its status as round three of the MSA Asphalt Rally Championship.
Current pacesetter Simon Mauger (Metro 4M4) tops the entry that has fellow overseas drivers Steve Simpson (Subaru WRC), Damian Cole (Ford Focus WRC), Mark Straker (Darrian T90 GTR), Steve Wood (Subaru WRC), Alex Laffey (Ford Fiesta R5+) and Graham Coffey (Ford Fiesta WRC) in the top seven.
The only Irish representation in the top 10 is that of Dundalk’s Brendan Cumiskey (Subaru WRX) and Kildare’s Jack Newman (Ford Escort). The rally is based at the Castle Arch Hotel in Trim.
The Red Bull Ring in Austria is the latest location for Cork’s Matt Griffin and his British team mate Duncan Cameron as they make their second appearance of the season in the International GT Open series.
Since early May, Griffin has been racing consecutive weekends all over the globe.
Last week, in Japan, he raced with the Clearwater Racing outfit where he teamed up with Richie Wee and notched up a fifth and fourth place finish in the two rounds of the GT Asia series.
Tomorrow he races with the AF Corse team, the first race is timed for 4.10pm with Sunday’s race at 2pm.
Next week Griffin will be in action in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) also at the Red Bull Ring and then he’s off to Japan again.
Lotus 72nd. Rally Poland (Round 7, World Rally Championship):
1. S. Ogier/J. Ingrassia (VW Polo WRC) 1m. 43.9s; 2. R. Kubica/M. Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1m. 44.4s; 3. A. Mikkelsen/O. Floene (VW Polo WRC) 1m. 44.5s; 4. M. Prokop/J. Tomanek (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1m. 45.4s; 5. JM Latvala/M. Anttila (VW Polo WRC) 1m. 45.9s; 6. O. Tanak/R. Molder (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1m. 46.3s; 17. K. Meeke/P. Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) 1m. 48.0s.
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