Sunday | 16 Nov 2014

Meeke closes on second after scare

Kris Meeke closed on Mikko Hirvonen through Sunday’s opening two stages at Wales Rally GB in their huge battle for second – but the Northern Irishman came close to throwing it away in the muddy conditions.

Stage info: SS18/19

SS18: Brenig 1, 10.81km
After a fast start, the road narrows after 2km before a 1.3km stretch of asphalt. The route then crosses moorland before running alongside Llyn Brenig reservoir, offering stunning views for the final 4km to the finish. It’s a brand new stage.

Stage info: SS19
SS19: Alwen 1, 10.04km
The stage is fast from the start but the road is bumpy and messy. It’s narrow for most of the way but the speed picks up along a couple of fast straights. The first few kilometres run alongside Alwen reservoir and logs line the road in places.

Meeke was 0.3sec quicker in Brenig and set second fastest time in his Citroen DS3 in Alwen to claw back another 1.0sec. It left the gap at 2.1sec, but Meeke was relieved to escape from a Brenig ditch.

“I ran an inch or two wide and went into a ditch,” he said. “It wouldn’t come out, but I kept the throttle down and went along the ditch for about 50 metres before it popped back on the road. I lost two or three seconds.”

Hirvonen damaged the rear of his Ford Fiesta RS after clipping the finish arch in Brenig and admitted he was frustrated. “I’m trying but it’s really difficult to keep a rhythm. I could easily have been faster,” he said.

Leader Sébastien Ogier took no risks in the slippery forests. He was 13th in Brenig and ninth in Alwen, and although the pace of Meeke and Hirvonen’s battle drew them nearer, Ogier held a comfortable 43.6sec advantage.

Mads Østberg was fastest in both stages to extend the gap over Thierry Neuville to 12.1sec in their fight for fourth. Neuville admitted he was lucky to escape a lurid slide in Alwen after a pace note error.

Road opener Andreas Mikkelsen was second in Brenig but went off 1km from the end of Alwen and his Volkswagen Polo R was stuck. Ott Tänak punctured the front left tyre on his Fiesta RS while Henning Solberg retired in the liaison section after Alwen with a fuel leak.

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