Kris Meeke among the leaders in Australia

"We really had to push all day"

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By Olivier Ferret

12 September 2014 - 16:23
Kris Meeke among the leaders in (...)

 After narrowly missing out on his first WRC win in Germany, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle found themselves once again at the front throughout the majority of day one at Rally Australia.
– With two stage wins, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crew returned to Coffs Harbour this evening in fourth position, just 4.1 seconds behind the leaders.
– Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson ended the day seventh overall in the other DS3 WRC.

After a magnificent performance in Finland and having led a world rally for the first time in Germany, Kris Meeke continued to improve. The Briton grabbed the Rally Australia overall lead at the end of SS3 (Newry 1) after claiming his second consecutive stage win.

Alongside co-driver Paul Nagle, he then held firm in the lead as his main rivals fought back during the second loop. After the first eight stages, they hold fourth position, 4.1 seconds adrift of the leaders.

Hit by a rear differential problem on SS3, Mads Østberg was unable to match his team-mate’s pace. After losing time following a minor spin on the first stage, the Norwegian fought back in the afternoon to climb back up to seventh place.

Saturday’s leg features six stages and 118 kilometres of timed sections. The cars are due to leave parc ferme at 6.45am (UTC+10), returning to the service park at 12.36pm and concluding the leg at 7.35pm after two runs on the super special stage.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Kris Meeke: “We really had to push all day. Starting from eighth position on the road meant that the grip was better in some sections during the first loop. But this afternoon, the conditions were more or less the same for everyone. In fact, it was pretty rough in places. We’ll need to keep the same level of consistency for the rest of the rally. The aim is not to win at all costs. We’re up against guys who are fighting for the world championship. I have to just keep running my own race. Being in the lead after SS6 was important as it means we’ll have a good starting position tomorrow.”

Mads Østberg: “It was a difficult day. I made a few mistakes and I had a minor technical issue this morning. We think we have found source of the problem. I hope tomorrow will be a better day. We’ll need to improve…”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Kris has had a very good day. He managed to make the most of his starting position this morning. In the second loop, although the conditions were pretty similar for everyone, he managed to maintain his pace. That augurs well for the rest of the rally. Mads had some difficulty in finding the right feeling and lost some time on SS3 due to technical issue. During the second loop, he wasn’t able to close the gap to the leaders as he felt that the grip conditions were less favourable than this morning.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED

SS1 – Hydes Creek 1 (10.73km) – Sébastien Ogier grabbed the early overall lead despite being first on the road. Eighth in the running order, Kris Meeke set the third fastest time. Mads Østberg lost around fifteen seconds after a minor off.

SS2 – Bellingen 1 (10.72km) – Stage win for Kris Meeke who moved up into second overall behind Sébastien Ogier. Mads Østberg set the sixth-fastest time to move up to tenth overall.

SS3 – Newry 1 (24,91 km) – A second consecutive stage win for Kris Meeke, making him the new overall leader as the crews headed back to Coffs Harbour. Mads Østberg continued his fightback, climbing to eight position.

SS4 – Hydes Creek 2 (10.73km) – With the roads affected by the morning pass, Kris Meeke ended up losing time from his start position of eighth. He held off his rivals, however, to remain in the lead at the end of the stage. Having resolved the technical issue during the midday service, Mads Østberg remained eighth overall.

SS5 – Bellingen 2 (10.72km) – With no advantage afforded by earlier runners having to sweep the road, Kris Meeke fought to withstand the pressure he was put under by his rivals. Meanwhile, Mads Østberg upped his pace to move into seventh overall.

SS6 – Newry 2 (24.91km) – The second run on the longest stage of the day enabled Kris Meeke to consolidate his first position. He finished clear of Mikkelsen and Hirvonen, extending his overall lead, but now followed by a new second-placed driver: Latvala. Mads Østberg closed the gap to sixth place, held by Paddon.

SS7 and SS8 – SSS I and II (1.56km/1.56km) – The two successive runs on the Coffs Harbour super special stage enabled first Jari-Matti Latvala, then Sébastien Ogier to grab the overall lead from Kris Meeke. Both stage wins were secured by Ogier, whilst Meeke dropped back to fourth overall, just 4.1 seconds off the leader. Mads Østberg held onto seventh position.

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