Peugeot UK driver Kris Meeke delivered a string of fastest stage times on the closing day of the Sata Rallye Azores, round four of the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, to take victory and the overall championship points lead.
Over the course of seven stages, the 29-year-old Ulsterman, who took the lead on SS2 on Friday morning, resisted a strong performance from Czech ace Jan Kopecky in his Skoda Fabia while remaining largely untroubled by his championship rivals.
"I'm seriously thrilled about our performance here this weekend,” Meeke said. “Today particularly in the adverse weather I think my background on British rallies came into play because the conditions were really difficult, as they have been all weekend. I wasn't intentionally pushing on the stages, just holding it together.
“I'm delighted for Peugeot UK particularly; for us to be able to take on such good teams as Skoda and the Belgian Peugeot team, Abarth and all the others is fantastic. I've really enjoyed the rally, especially because there's so much variety. We really had a bit of everything here."
In wet and blustery conditions on the island of Sao Miguel, set in the heart of the Azores achipelago some 1500km off the Portuguese coast in the Atlantic Ocean, the 37 cars to have survived the opening day's action set out westward for a gruelling day on the extremely challenging gravel stages.
Meeke held an overnight lead of 40 seconds from defending champion Nicolas Vouilloz in a similar Peugeot 207, stretching his advantage through the first stage of the day while the Frenchman came under attack from a flying Kopecky.
Behind the three leaders, young Finnish star Anton Alen gamely carried the hopes of the Abarth squad with a fine performance in his Grande Punto in fourth place after his team-mate Giandomenico Basso was forced out with suspension damage on the second stage of the day.
Alen enjoyed a day-long battle for fourth place with former WRC frontrunner Freddy Loix in another Peugeot 207, but spun on the penultimate stage and dropped 12 minutes to finish 18th after encountering a problem in getting the Grande Punto going again.
Local hero Fernando Peres powered to fifth in his Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, ahead of the similar car of IRC regular Franz Wittmann of Austria. The battle for the final two points positions was between Conrad Rautenbach, making his IRC debut in another Peugeot 207, and another Portuguese specialist in a Mitsubishi, Ricardo Moura.