Thursday, 22 July 2010
Peugeot scored a dramatic one-two in this weekend’s SATA Rally Azores, the seventh round of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Championship (IRC).
This result was the first one-two finish for Peugeot in this year’s IRC campaign and is great testimony to the strength of the Peugeot 207 S2000 rally car and the determined drives by Peugeot Portugal’s Bruno Magalhaes and Peugeot UK’s Kris Meeke.
It was Bruno who crossed the line first to take his maiden IRC victory with Kris and co-driver Paul Nagle in second and, more importantly a good solid finish after their recent run of bad luck.
It was not an easy weekend of rallying for Kris and Paul, however, who had to overcome a number of hurdles on the way to their second place finish. The rally kicked off on Thursday with three special stages and, as the victor of last year’s rally, Peugeot UK’s Kris Meeke would be the first car to tackle the stages. The first five finishers from these stages would be reversed for the second day so it was important not to be fifth as, sweeping the stages for the drivers on day two, would be a big disadvantage.
Kris, however, was only able to set the fifth fastest time on the opening stage. He found the stage very difficult due to the loose surface gravel which he cleaned out of the way for the cars behind. “You could see the times of the guys running further back were much faster than those running up front and that was definitely the case for me” said Kris.
Stage two saw a tactical move from Kris when he dropped time to ensure he dropped back in the order to sixth and thereby ensure he was not going to be the first car on the road for day two. This honour fell to local driver Bernardo Sousa who would finish day one in fifth place. At the end of the first day, Skoda’s Juho Hanninen held a slender lead over Peugeot Portugal’s Bruno Magalhaes in his 207 S2000 and Andreas Mikkelsen in his Fiesta S2000; Kris finished in sixth 12.3 seconds behind the leader.
With the first five drivers starting in reverse order for day two, Kris would be sixth on the road and would now benefit from the drivers in front sweeping the loose gravel off the stages.
Unfortunately, it seemed like the Peugeot UK team’s bad luck had returned when Kris and Paul picked up a puncture on the first stage of the day. However, other drivers also picked up punctures and Kris and Paul finished the stage fifth overall. The impact which had caused the puncture had also upset the front suspension settings and on special stage six Kris spun the car and lost more time. On returning to the Service Park, the Peugeot UK team changed the set-up of the Peugeot UK 207 S2000 and Kris and Paul proceeded to set the second fastest time on special stage seven and the fastest time on eight. On special stage nine, Kris and Paul gave it everything they had and took eighteen seconds out of the next placed driver, Andreas Mikkelsen demoting him to fifth place overall and taking his fourth place position. Running in fourth place would also prevent Kris being the first car on the road for the final day when the running order was reversed again.
Sadly, special stage ten was to undo all Kris and Paul’s hard work as they picked up another puncture dropping them back into fifth place. With no spare wheel after the puncture, Kris and Paul had to drive carefully in special stages eleven and twelve and returned back to the Service Park physically drained and disappointed that they would be the first car on the road for the final day.
At the end of the second day, Peugeot Portugal’s Bruno Magalhaes was leading the rally by 2.2 seconds from Skoda’s Juho Hanninen with Kris, fifth, 51.7 seconds behind.
The final day of the SATA rally Azores was to be just as dramatic as the first two. Leaving the Service Park for the final seven stages, Kris and Paul’s first target was to get the fourth place position back off Andreas Mikkelsen who was 2.8 seconds in front of them. The first stage of the day, Kris set the fourth fastest time and moved ahead of Mikkelsen who was only able to set the sixth quickest time.
This is Kris and Paul’s second podium finish of the year and puts them back into contention for the 2010 IRC Drivers’ crown. The next round of the IRC is on the Portuguese island of Madeira (August 5-7) and the Peugeot 207 S2000s of Meeke and Magalhaes will be out to claim another set of podium positions.
New! Kris Meeke – Intercontinental Rally Challenge Champion
By Simon McBride
The story of how Kris Meeke and Peugeot UK won the Intercontinental Rally Championship in their rookie year, from the disastrous opening round in Monte Carlo, to the ecstasy of winning the San Remo rally and the Championship in the same weekend. This is the gripping tale of how Kris and Peugeot defied expectations and made their mark on this highly competitive championship. There are those who felt that Kris was quick but lacked the consistency to succeed at the highest level – but the man from Dungannon proved them wrong in the style of his mentor and rally legend, Colin McRae. The best of Kris is still to come ...