Peugeot UK driver Kris Meeke has won the all-gravel Curitiba Rally in Brazil, round two of the IRC series. The Irishman claimed all seven stages on the opening day of the rally and then controlled his advantage on the second day to end up with a 26.2 second margin over Peugeot Belgium’s Nicolas Vouilloz, who finished second.
Meeke and Vouilloz set exactly the same time on the final stage of the rally, before heading back for the podium ceremony at the Curitiba circuit, which was immediately followed by the qualifying session for the opening round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship. Before the session started, the winning car of Meeke completed a lap of the Curitiba circuit, bringing rallying and racing together in a unique way.
Vouilloz overhauled Abarth driver Giandomenico Basso on the final afternoon, who eventually finished third. The pair had been locked in a tight battle for the runner-up spot throughout the two days of the rally, with Vouilloz initially claiming an advantage before Basso passed him on the final stage of day one. This meant that the duo headed into the last day of the rally separated by just 0.3 seconds. When Basso stalled on the opening stage of the final afternoon, losing about 10 seconds, Vouilloz was able to make his move, which he defended to the end.
Peugeot Belgium’s Freddy Loix was fourth, to move into the championship lead by three points. From the beginning, Loix – who finished second in Monte Carlo – said that his objective was to claim the lead of the series in Brazil, so he was not pushing at his hardest. He also had the handicap of running first on the road throughout the opening day of the rally, which cost him a lot of time as he swept up loose gravel. Meeke also had to cope with this handicap during the second day of the rally, but it was not so bad during the afternoon when the morning stages were repeated.
Loix now leads the championship on a total of 13 points, ahead of Kris Meeke, Sebastien Ogier and Giandomenico Basso: who are all tied for second on 10 points. Nicolas Vouilloz is third in the standings with eight points.
In fifth place on the Curitiba Rally was Argentinean driver Alejandro Cancio, who put in an extremely strong performance at the wheel of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. Cancio was consistently in the top-five stage times, even setting a third-fastest stage time at the end of leg one.
He beat local driver Rafael Tulio, who finished sixth overall and was also the top two-wheel drive runner in his Peugeot 206 S1600. Another Brazilian, Fiat driver Luis Tedesco, was second in the two-wheel drive category. Rounding off the points-scorers in Brazil was local man Marcos Tokarski, in his Peugeot 206.
The stunning Brazilian stages also led to some notable retirements, including Abarth’s Anton Alen. The Finn suffered some suspension damage after hitting a rock on SS3 and lost time, but worse was to follow on the second day of the event when he went too quickly into a corner and rolled out of the rally on SS9.
Other key retirements included former Production Car World Rally Championship star Marcos Ligato, who was forced to retire from sixth place on Friday after loose rubber from a front puncture damaged his Mitsubishi’s radiator. Saturday saw the retirement of Paraguayan driver Victor Galaeno (Mitsubishi) and the similar car of local hero Osvaldo Scheer.
1 Meeke/Nagle    Peugeot 207 S2000    2h08m05.7s
2 Vouilloz/Klinger    Peugeot 207 S2000    +26.2s
3 Basso/Dotta    Abarth Grande Punto S2000    +47.9s
4 Loix/Smeets    Peugeot 207 S2000    +2m32.1s
5 Cancio/Garcia    Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9    +5m20.0s
6 Tulio/Valandro    Peugeot 206 S1600    +19m04.0s
7 Tedesco/Furtado    Fiat Palio 1800    +20m53.0s
8 Tokarski/Gavieta    Peugeot 206 S1600    +21m48.8s
9 Valandro/Valandro    Volkswagen Gol    +32m24.7s
10 Fonseca/Cortes    Peugeot 206 S1600    +42m16.3s
Two-wheel drive winner: Rafael Tulio (Peugeot 206 S1600)
1 Loix 13     
2 Ogier 10
3 Meeke 10    
4 Basso 10    
5 Vouilloz 8
6 Sarrazin 6    
7 Kopecky 5
8 Cancio 4
9 Romeyer 3
10 Tulio 3
1 Peugeot 36
2 Abarth 12
3 Mitsubishi 8
4 Skoda 5
"It’s been an absolutely amazing event for me; quite possibly the best rally that I’ve ever driven on in my life. We’ve had a really warm welcome from everybody here in Brazil and we all enjoyed driving on some fantastic stages. When everything comes together in the car, it all feels very natural. The car and the team has been brilliant from the very beginning, and we’ve had no real problems throughout the rally. Naturally Saturday was a little bit more difficult than Friday as we were running first on the road, but I think we were able to deal with that problem quite well."
-Kris Meeke, Peugeot UK driver
"We had a very exciting battle with Giandomenico on Saturday where we were pushing hard throughout the day. We made a special effort in the afternoon though and luckily it paid off. He was very quick and so was Kris, so I’m sure it’s going to be a very close season. I’ve really enjoyed driving on this rally and it’s a relief to bring home a good result after retiring in Monte Carlo, so I think this gives us a solid base now for the rest of the year."
-Nicolas Vouilloz, Peugeot Belgium driver
"I really liked this rally although of course I feel slightly disappointed that we were third rather than second. I had hoped for a little bit more but in the end it was very close, also because we made a mistake and stalled the engine on Saturday afternoon. However, it’s always good to be on the podium, particularly on a rally that is as challenging as this one. I’ve really enjoyed myself, and I’d like to thank the Brazilian rally fans for making us so welcome. I’m definitely looking forward to coming back here again."
-Giandomenico Basso, Abarth driver
The next event on the IRC calendar is round three, the legendary Safari Rally, which takes place from April 3-4 in Kenya. The Safari Rally is based in the country’s capital, Nairobi, and takes in a wide variety of gravel roads through some spectacular scenery.

Peugeot UK driver Kris Meeke won the Rally Internacional de Curitiba: an event where rallying and racing came together in Brazil


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