PACE IN SARDINIA BUT A FRUSTRATING END FOR MEEKE
Kris Meeke suffered another frustrating result on round eight of the FIA World Rally Championship despite building up his pace to challenge for a podium on an event he has little experience of.
Meeke finished eighth at the wheel of his Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team Yaris WRC after a broken wheel rim forced him into a mid-stage tyre change on Saturday while in a heated three-way battle.
Rally d’Italia, hosted on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, delivers some of the toughest conditions of the year. Its narrow tracks are lined with huge rocks and surfaces range from deep sand to hard bedrock – all this with the typical sweltering summer temperatures makes for one of the most demanding championship events.
However, from the start, Meeke was at a distinct disadvantage having not competed in 2016 and 2018. The opening day on Friday was spent getting more familiar with the stages and setting an improved set of times on the second pass in the afternoon. He still managed to hold fifth place overnight after making more progress with car set-up and using mixed compound tyres for the first time with the Yaris.
Saturday morning saw a similar approach with the Dungannon-driver losing ground over the morning stages but locked in a three-way fight for fourth position. It was nip and tuck in the afternoon with Meeke starting to claw back time and looking like a challenge for the podium was on.
However, an impact with a rock on the final stage of the day saw Meeke forced to stop in the middle of the stage, change the tyre and limp to the end – dropping over two minutes in the process and back to eighth.
He cruised through the final four stages on Sunday and, despite another solid performance on unfamiliar stages, it wasn’t the podium result he was after.
With a five-week summer break, the championship race now heads to Finland and the iconic Neste Rally Finland on 2-4 August – an event that Meeke has won previously and will be targeting again.
Kris Meeke said: “I had highlighted this rally as one of the toughest at the start of the season. Compared to the other drivers, I have very little experience of these stages and it was always going to be difficult to match them.
“However, we did find a strong pace, especially in the afternoons and I was actually quite enjoying the rally as we were in a good battle and making progress. Unfortunately, a broken wheel put paid to that and it meant we had no option but to drive through the final day stages and collect the team points.
“We just need to look forward to Finland and the second half of the season as a whole. The Yaris WRC was really strong on these events last season and the entire team will be pushing for the same again.”