Aware of the need to secure a good result for both themselves and their Citroen team, the Irish crew of Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle set out this morning with a podium place as their target in Rally Australia.
With their regular team-mates Mads Ostberg/Jonas Andersson ruled out, following an accident during reconnaissance, it places an extra burden on the Irish pair to gain points in the Manufacturers’ series, where they lie third behind Hyundai and leaders Volkswagen.
Meeke was competitive last year but a time penalty for cutting a corner cost him a podium place. The Citroen outfit reckon that recent upgrades to the car will be an advantage, especially tomorrow.
Meeke, fourth fastest in the shakedown yesterday outlined his strategy: “The idea is not to push to the maximum at the start. I have to maintain the pace I have shown in the last few rallies and avoid even making the slightest mistake.
“If we manage that, then along with my starting position for the first two days, we should be well placed.”
There are eight stages today before the crews return to Coffs Harbour.
Meanwhile, Ostberg sustained two cracked ribs when his Citroen collided head on with a truck. He will be replaced by Stephane Lefebvre, who has also been nominated to score points for the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team in the manufacturers’ championship.
Series leader Sebastien Ogier can secure his third consecutive world title and join Sebastien Loeb (9) Juha Kankkunen (4) and Tommi Makinen (4) to have won the WRC on three or more occasions.
The French ace is 93 points clear of teammate Jari Matti Latvala and if he finishes ahead of the Finn, he will land the title. The VW outfit, who had their first lock-out of the top three places with the Polo WRC in last year’s event in Australia can also wrap up the manufacturers’ title.
Elsewhere, the two-day Wexford Rally begins tomorrow with British driver Mark Straker (Darrian T90 GTR) heading a capacity entry.
While the Subaru WRC duo of Tyrone’s Paddy McVeigh and Welshman Steve Wood will be competitive, the big challenge is likely to be provided by local star James Stafford (Darrian T90 GTR). He returns to action after serving an eighth-month competition ban following incidents arising out of last year’s event.
The popular two-wheel drive category has Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson (Ford Escort) heading the challenge with Tyrone’s Adrian Hetherington and Frank Kelly, well capable of a strong challenge.
Based at the Riverbank House Hotel, the first car away is at 9.15am.
Irish karting has received a boost with the announcement from the Motorsport Ireland Kart Race Committee that they have made an arrangement with University College Dublin Sports and Fitness Department to develop a training programme for karters.
This is new territory for the governing body of Irish Motorsport and also the UCD department, who will be starting from the ground up to design a specialised programme for karting competitors. Last month, six drivers attended the centre for an assessment with project leader Chris Chapman evaluating all drivers individually at their state-of-the-art facility.
A fitness regime will be introduced along with a complementary sports diet and nutrition programme to further enhance the training.
The penultimate round of the Irish Karting Championships takes place at Kartworld, Watergrasshill on Sunday. The entry includes Charleville’s Shane Daly competes in the Senior Rotax Max class, Ballymaloe’s Luca Allen in the Iame X30 Junior class and Glanmire’s Gary Edwards in the Iame Senior class.
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