Kris Meeke has dominated the opening day of the Curitiba Rally in Brazil after a clean sweep of stage wins on the first leg of the latest round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
The Peugeot UK driver didn't put a foot wrong as he led the way on all seven stages to ensure he made it back to parc ferme at the end of the day with a lead approaching the 50 second mark.
For Meeke, it was the ideal way to kick-start the event after his disappointing retirement in Monte Carlo, and he admitted he was hoping for rain to help protect his lead on Saturday's second leg.
“It's been the perfect day for me,” he said. “I've really enjoyed myself driving this car over these fantastic roads. I have to say that this is one of the best rallies I have ever driven on. It's amazing how when you have a good feeling with the car, everything just comes easily.
“The contrast with Monte Carlo could not be greater: I think Monte Carlo was the most difficult rally I have ever done. Here, I'm feeling very confident. But tomorrow is sure to be a much more difficult day than today. I'm going to be first on the road and that means I'll definitely lose time.
“It's going to be hard to set fastest times tomorrow but if we can look after the margin that we have, then that's obviously a great result. If it rains that should help us too, so I'm going to do a rain dance tonight!”
While the contest for the lead was clear cut, the battle for second place was much closer. On the final stage of the day, factory Abarth Grande Punto driver Giandomenico Basso got past the Peugeot Belgium 207 S2000 of Nicolas Vouilloz, concluding a battle that had lasted throughout the afternoon.
Both drivers enjoyed a clean run throughout the day with no major problems, but in the end it was Basso who overhauled the reigning IRC champion to hold second at the end of the day; the pair split by just 0.3 seconds
“It's been a good day, where we've had no problems, and it's nice to end it with an exciting battle like we had with Nicolas this afternoon,” he said. “I wasn't so comfortable with the car on the first stage of the afternoon loop, but we were able to push progressively harder towards the end of it and set some good times. Tomorrow though I think will be a lot more tricky: the route is a lot more technical and also narrower, so there is a bigger risk of punctures and getting into trouble. So far we've managed to avoid that, so hopefully we can keep it this way tomorrow.”