The Irish pair are presently fifth in the series – trailing leader Juho Hanninen by 27 points. This afternoon they embark on the Geko Ypres Rally, round five of the series, and the scene of one of their most memorable victories in 2009.
Prior to the last round, Rally Sardinia, Meeke remarked that any points haul he would gain from the event would be a bonus as he reckoned the remaining rounds suited him better.
Having crashed out of second place in Sardinia, that theory will now be put to the test.
On board their Peugeot UK-backed Peugeot 207 S2000, Meeke/Nagle will be aiming for a strong result on this rally to get their championship defence back on track. Last year in the Belgian event they had a colossal battle with Freddy Loix (Peugeot) that ended with the Tyrone/Kerry duo taking a 20.4 second-win over Jan Kopecky.
The series is based on the best seven scores and with one victory (Brazil) under their belts, they can still retain their title but there is little, if any, scope for error. The entry includes Hanninen (Skoda), Chris Atkinson (Proton Satria), Jan Kopecky (Skoda), Freddy Loix (Skoda), Pieter Tsjoen (Peugeot S207) and Alistair McRae (Proton).
Peugeot Sport’s Le Mans driver, Stephane Sarrazin returns to the IRC in a Peugeot 207 S2000 prepared by the French PH Sport team. A recognised tarmac specialist, he will have logistical support from Kronos Racing. His best result in the IRC was third in last year’s Monte Carlo Rally.
Aside from Meeke/Nagle, Irish interest will also feature Wicklow’s Danny Barry/Martin Brady in a Mitsubishi Evo9 and Marty McCormack/David Moynihan in a Citroen C2R2. Of the 103 cars entered there are 25 S2000 cars from four different manufacturers – Peugeot (11), Skoda (8), Proton (3) and Ford (3). Meanwhile, World Rally Championship regular and double PWRC champion, Toshi Arai is also entered and will drive a Subaru.
Top seed, Craig Breen is out of Sunday’s Suirway Forklifts Kilkenny-based Raven’s Rock Rally. The Kilkenny driver crashed out of last week’s Donegal International Rally and his Ford Fiesta S2000 will not be repaired in time for the nine-stage rally. The front left-hand tyre was damaged at a left-hand bend some two corners before they crashed. A source within the team revealed that they discovered a 50mm slit right through the tyre.
In Breen’s absence, Northern Ireland’s Neil McCance (Mitsubishi Evo9) will lead the cars at tomorrow evening’s ceremonial start at Kilkenny Castle. The seeded top 10 entry also features Mitsubishi duo, John McGlaughlin and Brendan Cumiskey, Tadhg Linehan (Subaru WRC), Stephen Cullen (Subaru), Eoin Doyle (Subaru WRC), Mark Nangle (Subaru) and Sam Moffett (Mitsubishi).
Former Irish and British S1600 champion Brian O’Mahony is a late entry, and is expected to slot in amongst the top 10. The Carrigaline driver will pilot his Renault Clio S1600. The rally is a counting round of the Triton Showers South-East Stages Championship, the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge Ireland and the Southern 4 Rally Championship. Headquarters is at the Kilford Arms Hotel. The first car away on Sunday morning is at 9am and the first stage begins at 9.53am. Based on a triple run over a loop of three stages, servicing takes place after stages 3 and 6. The event finishes at 4.25pm.
Having refused to carry out scrutineering duties at last week’s Donegal International Rally, personnel from the Motorsport Ireland’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) return for duty this weekend and will check the cars in Kilkenny. The convenor of TAG, Nicky Strathan, was forced to lead a panel of MSA (British Motorsport Association) scrutineers in Donegal.
The Castle AC Autocross at Fennor, near Oldcastle starts tomorrow at 3pm and Sunday at 12.30pm.
Stephen Wright clinched the 2010 Kick Energy Fiesta SportTrophy Ireland (FST IE) Championship following his second place in the category at last weekend’s Topaz Donegal International Rally.
Eoin Murray (Oasis Motorsport) finished seventh and second respectively in last weekend’s double-header in the Seat Eurocup series at Zolder. The Dubliner is fourth in the championship, seven points off the lead. The next round is at Brands Hatch GP circuit on July 17/18.