Kris Meeke has become the most successful driver in the short history of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge by winning Rally Internacional de Curitiba for a second successive time. Co-driven by Irishman Paul Nagle, the defending IRC champion beat fellow Briton Guy Wilks to victory in Brazil by 46.7 seconds following a faultless performance in his Peugeot 207 Super 2000. It was Meeke’s fifth win from 12 IRC starts.
Behind Skoda UK driver Wilks, Juho Hanninen claimed six fastest stage times on his way to the final podium spot in third. The result means the Finn now tops the drivers‘ standings with 14 points to the 11 Wilks has accumulated during the opening two rounds of the 12-event IRC season.
Meeke’s only cause for concern on day two occurred when he came across a flooded river just under three kilometres into stage ten. He said the section was almost one metre deep and 50 metres in length. At one point he feared he might aquaplane off the road. However, he completed the test unscathed and marked his victory by completing a celebratory lap of the Curitiba race circuit, which is hosting the opening two rounds of the World Touring Car Championship tomorrow (Sunday). The races are being televised live on Eurosport.
Wilks also suffered at the hands of the watersplash when his Skoda Fabia’s engine momentarily cut onto three cylinders after taking in too much liquid. To prevent a repeat of the problem on the second pass of the stage in the afternoon, Wilks attacked the watery section at full speed. He avoided any time loss but damaged his car’s bumper.
Jan Kopecky started the second leg in third place but a right-rear puncture five kilometres before the finish of the Saturday’s first 28.32-kilometre Bocaiuva stage dropped him into Hanninen’s clutches. And his Skoda team-mate duly moved in front on the next stage to run.
Bruno Magalhaes scored points on his second IRC event in a row despite reporting making a few mistakes with his pacenotes, which resulted in a loss of confidence. Unable to catch Kopecky for fourth and with his fifth place secured, Magalahes spent the final stages trying different set-ups for the third round of the IRC in Argentina later this month.
Eduardo Scheer completed the top six in his Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer. The Brazilian fought out a close battle with Bolivian Eduardo Peredo, whose similar Lancer suffered an engine failure within sight of the finish of the final stage, where he retired.
Daniel Oliveira had been sixth when he picked up a front-left puncture ten kilometres into Saturday’s first stage. Because it was only a slow puncture Oliveira and new co-driver Denis Giraudet elected to soldier to the end of the stage before changing the damaged tyre. They were rewarded with seventh overall in their Stohl Racing-run 207.
IRC 2WD Cup winner Marcos Tokarski, from Brazil, secured the final IRC drivers‘ point in eighth overall aboard his 1600cc Peugeot 207.
Heavy rain during rally week forced organisers to cancel the two Rio Pesqueiro stages when the river of the same name running adjacent to it burst its banks. The event-closing Super Prime Pinhais stage was also lost because of the weather.
Kris Meeke (United Kingdom), Peugeot 207 S2000, first overall: "It’s a near-perfect result for us and it’s great to have put all the experience of last year to such good use. Paul has been brilliant alongside me and made no mistakes. It’s not been easy this weekend but we’ve learned to control the lead and that’s really pleasing. We’ve been relaxed, driven in the middle of the road, but also showed plenty of commitment when we needed to. I know what it takes to win again."
Guy Wilks (United Kingdom), Skoda Fabia S2000, second overall: "I’d not done a gravel rally this fast since Finland in 2007 so to have adapted to the stages and got second is a great result for me, Phil and Skoda UK. We’ve shown a lot of pace here but I think the difference has come down to the experience Kris has got from doing the rally last year. He drove very well but experience is very important here."
Juho Hanninen (Finland), Skoda Fabia S2000, third overall: "I am quite satisfied because we are now leading the championship when yesterday we thought it would be a really bad result after the puncture. I kept pushing today to keep the rhythm and it is lucky for me Jan got his puncture because it might have been hard to have got ahead of him."
TOP TEN IRC RESULTS AFTER LEG TWO
1 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle Peugeot 207 S2000 1h42m45.4s
2 Guy Wilks/Phil Pugh Skoda Fabia S2000 +46.7s
3 Juho Hanninen/Mikko Markkula Skoda Fabia S2000 +1m20.2s
4 Jan Kopecky/Petr Stary Skoda Fabia S2000 +1m49.3s
5 Bruno Magalhaes/Carlos Magalhaes Peugeot 207 S2000 +4m05.5s
6 Eduardo Scheer/Geferson Pavinatto Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +14m00.4s
7 Daniel Oliveira/Denis Giraudet Peugeot 207 S2000 +14m41.8s
8 Marcos Tokarski/Laercio Reginatto Peugeot 207 +23m21.4s
9 Luis Tedesco/Gabriel Morales Fiat Palio +23m25.8s
10 Juan San Martin/Martin Villete Subaru Impreza WRX +23m42.6s
Leading IRC 2WD Cup finishers: Marcos Tokarski/Laercio Reginatto (Peugeot 207)
Drivers after round two of 12
1 Juho Hanninen (Finland) 14pts
2 Guy Wilks (United Kingdom) 11pts
3 Kris Meeke (United Kingdom) 10pts
= Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) 10pts
5 Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic) 9pts
6 Bruno Magalhaes (Portugal) 6pts
= Nicolas Vouilloz (France) 6pts
8 Stephane Sarrazin (France) 5pts
9 Eduardo Scheer (Brazil) 3pts
10 Daniel Oliveira (Brazil) 2pts etc
Manufacturers after round two of 12
1 Skoda 28pts
2 Peugeot 21pts
3 M-Sport 10pts
4 Ralliart 3pts
2WD Drivers after round two of 12
1 Kris Princen 10pts
= Marcos Tokarski 10pts
3 Luis Tedesco 8pts
= Pierre Campana 8pts
5 Thomas Barral 6pts
= Ulysses Bertholdo 6pts
7 Simone Campedelli 5pts
= Luciano Fleck 5pts
9 Jean-Michel Raoux 4pts
= Pablo Alejandro Pelaez 4pts etc
2WD Manufacturers after round two of 12
1 Peugeot 26pts
2 M-Sport 14pts
3 Abarth 8pts
4 Skoda 5pts
5 Honda 4pts
Friday 5 March
SS1: Campo Magro 1 (18.85kms): Kris Meeke
SS2: Ouro Fino 1 (9.58kms): Kris Meeke
SS3: Curitiba 1 (12.58kms): Kris Meeke
SS4: Campo Magro 2 (18.85kms): Kris Meeke
SS5: Curitiba 2 (12.58kms): Juho Hanninen
SS6: Campo Magro 3 (18.85kms): Kris Meeke
SS7: Ouro Fino 2 (9.58kms): Kris Meeke
Saturday 6 March
SS8: Bocaiuva (28.05kms): Juho Hanninen
SS9: Rio Pesqueiro 1 (15.06kms): Stage cancelled due to flooding
SS10: Quatro Barras 1 (12.02kms): Juho Hanninen
SS11: Nobre (10.14kms): Juho Hanninen
SS12: Rio Pesqueiro 2 (15.06kms): Stage cancelled due to flooding
SS13: Quatro Barras 2 (12.02kms): Juho Hanninen
SS14: Campina (22.78kms): Juho Hanninen
SS15: Super Prime Pinhais (3.38kms): Stage cancelled due to water damage
Stage winners in 2010
Juho Hanninen: 8
Sebastien Ogier: 7
Kris Meeke: 6
Mikko Hirvonen: 3
Stephane Sarrazin: 2
Nicolas Vouilloz: 1
Eurosport, Europe’s largest television channel, will show highlights of each day of the rally. Highlights will also be available at www.rally-irc.com
Sunday 7 March
23:00-23:30: Magazine (Eurosport Asia-Pacific)
24:00-24:30: Magazine (Eurosport)
Monday 8 March
03:30-04:00: Magazine repeated (Eurosport Asia-Pacific)
Tuesday 9 March
13:00-13:30: Magazine repeated (Eurosport2)
Wednesday 10 March
18:30-19:00: Magazine repeated (Eurosport2)
All times are CET