Sanremo victory crowns champion year for Meeke

Kris Meeke has claimed the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge title in fine style, with victory on this weekend’s Rallye Sanremo.
The Peugeot UK driver fought back from fourth place overnight to take the lead on the final morning in the mountains on the Italian Riviera. Despite the pounding given to his brakes on the twisting asphalt stages, he prevailed for his fourth win of the season to become the first British driver to win the IRC.
“We never could have expected this to happen,” said a slightly disbelieving Meeke as he crossed the line. “There’s so many people I have to thank for the opportunity, I’m only one link in the chain and there’s a long chain of people who helped make it happen and without any one of the them the chain would have been broken.”
The rally began with Meeke just one point ahead of Czech ace Jan Kopecky in the works Skoda Fabia S2000. Kopecky got off to a flying start to win the first stage, but then crashed in the middle of the second stage and suffered irreparable suspension damage.
This left the way clear for a major battle for honours between two Italian drivers – the works Abarth Grande Punto S2000 of Luca Rossetti and the Peugeot 207 S2000 of Paolo Andreucci – while Meeke suffered from overheating brakes in fourth place.
At the overnight halt Andreucci held a slender advantage while Rossetti was unable to get the car handling how he wanted it to. At the start of the final day, however, Rossetti was far happier in his car while Andreucci’s Pirelli tyres – unique among the front-runners – struggled for grip and left him fighting a defensive battle for the rest of the rally.
Meeke, meanwhile, had started the second day in a champion’s style, winning the first stage by 10 seconds and the second stage by a further 8.3 seconds. On the final stage of the morning he lost 10 seconds after more brake trouble and a nervous time was had at the service halt.
“The opening night’s stages were interesting to say the least, then it all just clicked and I got a rhythm,” Meeke said. “The pacenotes were inch-perfect and I honestly couldn’t believe the times!
“I had a few troubles with the brakes on the second stage this morning,” he explained. “I was able to drain it while driving to the next stage, but I couldn’t put all the fluid back because of a defective pipe so we had next to no brakes at all – but fortunately it was short and up-hill!”
While Rossetti was able to regain ground on Meeke through the short stage, last year’s IRC champion Nicolas Vouilloz was unable to capitalise in his Peugeot Benelux-entered 207 S2000. A puncture on the first stage of the day cost him time that blunted his challenge for victory, and passed the initiative to team-mate Freddy Loix in their battle for third place in the overall points.
Both Vouilloz and Meeke recovered their earlier pace on the penultimate stage, however. Meeke extended his lead once again and Vouilloz reclaimed third position from the struggling Andreucci, but then lost ground to local man Roberto Travaglia who just edged him into fourth place at the finish by 0.4 seconds.
In a dramatic twist, Travaglia then incurred a 30 second time penalty on the road, dropping him to sixth and promoting Vouilloz back to the podium=

Schreibe einen Kommentar