Kris Meeke says he will take positives from his front-running performance on the Monte Carlo Rally onto the next round in Sweden as he saw his bold challenge for victory ruined by a rock strike in SS12.
The only convincing rival for Sebastien Ogier over the course of the event so far, though Meeke had slipped from being 10secs behind the Frenchman to 30secs prior to his retirement, he was on course to keep up the pressure heading into the final day of action.
However, a dislodged bedrock in the middle of a corner towards the end of SS12 would prove Meeke's cruel undoing, the Briton driving directly over it to rip off the sump guard and damage the intercooler to the gearbox. Despite efforts to fix it after the stage, Meeke was forced to admit defeat and retire the Abu Dhabii Racing Citroen DS3.
Dispelling any suggestion that the rock may have been placed there intentionally, though Meeke was not hiding his disappointment at the 'freak' incident, he says there is still much to be satisfied with.
“The TV crew caught footage of the incident and I think if you look at it you'd have to say we were unfortunate, to say the least,” he said. “We seemed to be following the same line as everyone else but there was some piece of exposed bedrock and whichever way I happened to catch it, it pulled the sump guard off and damaged the intercooler and the gearbox.
“It's quite a strange incident but bitterly disappointing to go out like this, when we've come through all of the challenges of this rally – the snow, the ice, the black ice and the tyre choices – and done everything to such a high level, fighting with Seb [Ogier].
“But we have to take the positives and it was, again, a strong performance, I think. For sure, Seb was a little bit stronger in certain areas and I was struggling to hold on to him, to be honest, but we did our best and I think the pace shows we are improving all the time. It's encouraging for the future.
Meeke will be in action for the second round in Sweden, the Briton continuing to bolster his experience in what will be a part-season campaign with the DS3 alongside commitments testing with Citroen ahead of a full-scale return to World Rally action in 2017.
“Now we'll go to Sweden for my third time there and keep building the experience. I'm going to try to keep running at the same rhythm as here; whether that translates into running at the front in Sweden, or lower down, we'll see. Either way, I'm looking forward to getting on to the next rally. We have to bank this one now, we've a load of experience from here that we can use in 2017. So I'm disappointed but not disheartened – and I also want to thank everyone for all their support this weekend.”