Palletforce world rally driver Kris Meeke scored a fine fourth on his home event at Wales Rally GB after leading for the first full day of the tricky forest event. The nip-and-tuck battle saw a double points finish for his Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team, helping them close the gap at the top of the table to just eight points.
Meeke and co-driver Sebastian Marshall had a strong start, sliding round the opening spectator stage at Oulton Park race-track in a fastest time, taking an early two-second rally lead.
When the action started for real in the narrow north-Wales forests on Friday morning, heavy rain had made the gravel roads treacherously slippery. However, Meeke mastered the conditions in his Yaris WRC and extended his lead to nine seconds by stage three.
A small, time-consuming spin and deteriorating conditions meant he slipped back a little further and finished the first day in third place – the top four drivers covered by less than nine seconds.
Super Saturday was a mammoth challenge with 150km of stages without the safety of the usual mid-leg service halt. Early in the day, Meeke’s team-mate retired from the event after going off the road and the pressure was on to bring home important team points.
The Saturday stages were a little different in nature and, with one eye on maintaining a strong pace and the other on team points, Meeke took the safe option and slid into a solid fourth place. The top four continued to be covered by seconds and Meeke was poised to take advantage of any mistakes.
He cruised through Sunday’s final short day, holding position and finishing fourth. The result backed up team-mate Ott Tanak’s rally-winning result and the Toyota team came away with an unrivalled points haul – consolidating their position in the race for the manufacturer championship.
Meeke has shown improved form since Rally Finland and is aiming for another solid result on the penultimate championship round at Rally Spain on 24-27 October.
Kris Meeke said: “Conditions over the whole weekend were as challenging as we know they can be on Rally GB, with rain, mud, slime and constantly changing grip levels. We were very committed throughout and we led the rally from Thursday night's opening stage pretty much all the way through Friday. So in a way, to come home fourth is a little bit disappointing.
“And yet on the whole, I'm happy. We weren't too far from the top pace; we just lacked a little bit of extra speed on Saturday. And our situation also changed when the third Yaris of Jari-Matti Latvala crashed out; I know how important it is for Toyota to retain its manufacturer's championship, and our fourth place brings strong points towards that.
“I'm delighted to see our team-mate Ott Tanak take victory and it all helps us to close the gap to Hyundai in the points standings. So we have to say it's been a strong weekend.”