Kris Meeke scored another top finish in the FIA World Rally Championship after leading Rally Mexico on his first outing on gravel in the Toyota Yaris WRC. The world rally driver and Palletforce international brand ambassador continued his strong start to the season, on the third different surface in three rallies. He finished fifth and scored four bonus championship points on the Power Stage.
The Northern-Ireland driver showed his pace from the start, going fastest through the pre-event Shakedown stage on Thursday – despite it being his gravel debut with the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team.
When the action started for real, up in the high-altitude mountains above host city Leon, Meeke used his experience of the event to set a number of strong times and hold third place overnight.
Setting a stunning time on the opening stage on Saturday, he edged into the lead of the event for the third time in three years. However, a puncture and then damaged rear suspension forced him to limp through the next two gravel tests, losing time and dropping back to fifth.
With a focus on collecting bonus championship points on the final Power Stage, Meeke and co-driver Sebastian Marshall set a blistering pace through the test and were beaten by just 0.02 seconds – collecting four extra points for their title race.
That ensured he remained fourth in the championship battle, scoring points on every round this year and getting his season off to its best-ever start, despite the new team, car and co-driver.
Fifth also secures important team championship points, allowing his Toyota Gazoo Racing team to remain at the top of the manufacturer standings.
The championship continues to change surface and Meeke will tackle the first all-asphalt event this year on the Mediterranean island of Corsica on 28-31 March. The Tour de Corse features long, mountainous stages lined by rock faces on one side and steep drops on the other as well as numerous surface changes.
Kris Meeke said: “We have some big positives from this rally, leading it on Saturday and showing we have the pace on gravel on our first time in the car. That pace, and our fourth position in the championship is a strong platform to build on for the rest of the season.
“The puncture really put a dampener on things but we are still sticking to the strategy of getting the miles in, getting the experience and making sure we collect good manufacturer points to keep the team at the top.”