Meeke and Ostberg bunched at the front
Two DS3 WRCs in the top 5
— With two DS3 WRCs in the top 5, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s crews were among the frontrunners during the first leg of Wales Rally GB.
— Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ended the longest day of the rally just ahead of Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson.
— The competitors were greeted by typically autumnal conditions throughout the day’s stages in Wales.
Heavy rain had been forecast for this, the first leg of Wales Rally GB. However, although showers fell at the service park and in the surrounding area overnight, the crews were mostly able to avoid the rain as they completed the first few stages.
Despite the lack of rain, the wind and a few rays of sunshine in the afternoon made little inroads in drying out the damp road surface. The big classic stages of Wales Rally GB remained particularly slippery.
As soon as the rally got underway, Mads Østberg, fifth on the road, and Kris Meeke, seventh in the running order, had to deal with the increasingly greasy, slippery line left by the crews completing the stages before them.
Mads Østberg was in impressive form in the first loop of stages. The Norwegian reached Newport for the midday service in third overall. Kris Meeke produced similar times to those of his team-mate. However, he slightly jumped the start on SS1 and was handed a ten-second penalty as a result, dropping him down to fifth position.
In the afternoon, the changing conditions slowed the progress of Mads Østberg. Whilst staying close to the pace of the leaders, he was passed by Kris Meeke on SS8. The Briton notched four third-fastest times today to end the leg just shy of the podium places in fourth overall.
Already assured of the FIA Junior WRC title, Stéphane Lefebvre continued on his learning curve in the DS3 R5. Alongside experienced co-driver Stéphane Prévot for the first time, he made it back to the Deeside service park this evening tenth overall in the WRC 2.
In the DS3 R3, Alastair Fisher took a clear lead in the FIA Junior WRC. The Briton ended day one ahead of newcomer Henri Haapamaki, Martin Koči and Simone Tempestini, who were all grouped within a matter of seconds.
After a 45-minute service, the cars will be driven into parc ferme for the night. Tomorrow’s leg gets underway at 6.40am, featuring a total of nine stages and 113 timed kilometres. A midday service in Deeside will split the day in two. A flexi-service will conclude the leg starting at 7.59pm.
Mads Østberg: “The day had started very well. The car was very fast right from the word go on stage one. This afternoon, I couldn’t find the same pace when the roads became even more slippery. I tried to change my driving style and we made a few changes to the set-up of the DS3 WRC but it didn’t really work. We’re still right in the fight for a place on the podium. We’ll have to keep pushing tomorrow!”
Kris Meeke: “This is the position we were hoping to be in at the start of the rally. The roads are as slippery as driving on ice. I made a minor mistake on the final stage which must have cost me about five seconds. I think we might have won the stage without that. The set-up of the DS3 WRC has helped me to feel confident. The team has worked really hard. We’re going to fight to finish on the podium.”
HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – Gartheiniog 1 (14.58km) – The opening stage of the rally was won by Sébastien Ogier, ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen. In the mud, Mads Østberg grabbed the fourth fastest time and Kris Meeke finished sixth. The British driver was given a ten-second penalty for jumping the start.
SS2 – Dyfi 1 (21.90km) – Confirmation by Sébastien Ogier, this time finishing ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala. Mads Østberg was fourth fastest again to grab third position in the overall standings. Kris Meeke ended the test in fifth overall. Andreas Mikkelsen retired at the end of stage.
SS3 – Hafren Sweet Lamb 1 (23.55km) – Jari-Matti Latvala reduced the gap to the leader on the longest stage of the rally. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke finished third and fourth fastest on the stage to make up a few valuable seconds on their rivals. Juho Hänninen went off.
SS4 – Maesnant 1 (12.86km) – Just before the midday service, Kris Meeke clocked the third fastest time, behind Ogier and Latvala, ending the morning in fifth overall. Mads Østberg remained third after the first four stages.
SS5 – Gartheiniog 2 (14.58km) – Jari-Matti Latvala went quicker on the second pass on this stage, moving closer to Sébastien Ogier. Kris Meeke continued to gain a few seconds with the third fastest time. Mads Østberg finished sixth on the stage.
SS6 – Dyfi 2 (21.90km) – Sébastien Ogier responded immediately with the stage win on Dyfi 2. With the roads becoming increasingly slippery, Mads Østberg lost his third position to Mikko Hirvonen. Kris Meeke remained fifth overall.
SS7 – Hafren Sweet Lamb 2 (23.55km) – As in the morning loop, Latvala beat Ogier on Hafren Sweet Lamb. The battle for third remained intense with four drivers bunched together, separated by less than fourteen seconds: Hirvonen, Østberg, Meeke and Neuville.
SS8 – Maesnant 2 (12.86km) – Another stage win for Jari-Matti Latvala – his fourth of the day – left him just 6.6 seconds behind overall leader Sébastien Ogier. Third fastest time for Kris Meeke, who moved into fourth position ahead of his team-mate Mads Østberg.
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