Kris Meeke was unable to realise the full potential of Albatec Racing's two-litre 16v Peugeot 208 as day two of the FIA European Rallycross Championship proved to be a frustrating exercise for the WRC ace.
'Wildcard' entry Meeke again proved the man to beat in Sunday morning's warm-up, heading the times on his first run and establishing himself as a top contender among the bumper 31-car field, before clinching his maiden RallycrossRX Supercar victory, but the weekend as a whole ended without an appearance in the final at Rallycross de Loheac.
Lining up on the outside of the grid alongside Nabil Karam, Jos Jansen, Petter Solberg
and team-mate Andy Scott, Meeke was unable to make the most of the car's 600bhp, trailing Jansen into the first corner. The 2009 IRC champion quickly recovered, moving ahead of Jansen after his joker, before targeting third placed Karam on lap three. The Lebanese driver left a gap which Meeke quickly took advantage of to claim third at the flag.
The fourth qualifying heat of the day, however, saw Meeke demoted to the back of the field, having been disqualified from the results of heat three for his pass on Karam. Heading to the grid, the Irishman knew this would be his last chance to progress, and that victory and a fast race pace were essential to his hopes.
A great getaway saw him lead into turn one, running side-by-side with Mats Ohman, but wisely he conceded the place at the next corner. A stirring drive, however, allowed him to take the place on the next lap, and with a hard-charging drive to the flag secured his first RallycrossRX Supercar heat victory.
“We knew from the test that the car was good, so I had a good feeling,” Meeke reflected, “When it's like that and you're able to set the fastest times in practice when you've a clean track, it's great, but, in rallycross, you don't have a clean track. The total lottery of the first corner went against us this weekend and not being able to get the start we wanted is frustrating, but that's racing.
“In heat three, the guy in front left me two cars width on the inside, so I went for the gap. I got past him and he was at my side door and tried to turn in on me and it was a black flag for me. I was completely past him before he turned in, so I simply don't understand it.
“The whole environment and atmosphere is fantastic, but I think, if it moves on to a professional level, where they want it to go, they're going to have to be a lot clearer on the rules.
“We know we have the speed, but it's not qualifying every time. For me, for sure, the rules need to change a lot before it becomes a proper professional sport. You need qualifying, you can't rely on a lottery and be placed in with guys who are four or five seconds a lap slower and there's nowhere to pass. There needs to be qualifying and the first heats based on those positions, top six in the heats, more like that as it leaves too much to interpretation. The guys in the tower don't understand sometimes what it's like to be inside the car and they have to make a decision, but for me it's clear it wasn't a black flag.