Tour de Corse, Corsica – the rally of 1000 corners and the first true tarmac test of the World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar saw Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke’s course cut short.
Corsica is one of the most challenging rounds of the WRC due to the fact that it quite possibly has more Pacenotes than any other round within the series which is simply due to the fact that it is corner after corner from start to finish of every stage.
Anyone can drive in a straight line but only the brave dare to be fast on the twisty stuff and Kris Meeke from Dungannon couldn’t have claimed five stage wins without his navigator, Killarney’s Paul Nagle telling him where to go.
After a notable showing on the shakedown stage the Irish crew set off on the first of four stages (two lengthy stages ran twice) in their Citroen C3 WRC on Friday morning with confidence and at the stage end led the event by 5.7 seconds.
Stage two saw another stage win from Meeke and on a stage that current WRC champion Seb Ogier dominated on last year by more than 10 seconds. As such the C3 crew were overjoyed at their pace, confidence and the way the Citroen was performing at the stage end.
Ogier, on what is more or less his home event couldn’t let the C3 WRC run away and managed to claw back less than a second on stage three whilst on the final stage of the day the Meeke and Nagle showed their class with another stage win.
Leading the event by some 10.3 seconds going into day two ‘It’s been a good day,’ Kris said.
‘The C3 has been working really well and it’s been giving me a lot of confidence. So our times have been good, but I’ve been driving within myself and just keeping a good rhythm. You always have to be wary of Seb [Ogier], because he never gives up. But I’m comfortable with my pace, so let’s see how we get on tomorrow.’
Day two got underway with the same format as before, a total of four stages, two ran twice with the opener a monstrous 48km.
On the opening test, Kris and Paul cemented their confidence as well as the C3 WRC’s pace by extending their overall lead to 16.4 seconds, this was proving to be quite the event for the Irish crew until the following stage.
Sadly, during the next stage the Citroen succumbed to engine trouble and at the end of stage six the lads were forced to retire with terminal engine failure. Soon after on social media, a photo popped up of the lads enjoying a beer and with such a commanding drive, surely regain all confidence lost at the start of the season.
After the disappointment, Meeke commented ‘Obviously, this is not the outcome I was hoping for, but its part and parcel of the sport. In order for a car to go as fast as possible, there are tens of people who work on thousands of parts… and sometimes, it doesn’t work quite as it should’.
Kris continued ‘In any event, this weekend has given me a huge confidence boost for the future. It was really special to lead this rally, which I think is the most difficult tarmac event. We know that our C3 WRC can win on all surfaces and that’s what we’ll try to do in Argentina, and then in Portugal and everywhere else’.
Team mate Stéphane Lefebvre broke a wheel on the same stage that ended Kris’ rally and despite running repairs had used all of his allocated time, plus a bit and as such was not allowed to continue. Meanwhile the teams third car, crewed by Waterford’s Craig Breen remains in contention for points, going into day three 5th overall and with a nice road position on the final loop.
Words: Graham Curry Photos: Citroen Racing