'Small mistake' dashes Kris Meeke's Madeira victory hopes

Kris Meeke admits he let slip the chance to make it consecutive victories in this season’s Portuguese Rally Championship following his early retirement from Rali Vinho da Madeira over the weekend.
'Small mistake' dashes Kris Meeke's Madeira victory hopes

13 years after his last visit to the island – which came during his Intercontinental Rally Challenge days with the Peugeot Sport UK team – Meeke returned to the Club Sports da Madeira-run event.

Despite the hiatus, the Dungannon man recorded the third quickest time during the qualifying stage alongside Fermanagh’s Brian Hoy – his third different co-driver of the campaign so far – and carried that momentum into the first proper timed test to open up a slim 0.2 second advantage.

Meeke blitzed the opposition on the next stage – ‘Campo de Golfe’ – at the wheel of his Hyundai i20 N Rally2 to lead the Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo of Alexandre Camacho – the eventual winner by 20.6 seconds from the identical Czech supermini of Giandomenico Basso – by four-and-a-half-seconds.

However, a mistake on a fast, open section of ‘Palheiro Ferreiro’ caused Meeke to drift wide on a left-hander before his car kissed a wall on the outside of the corner and damaged the front-right wheel.

He was the fourth retirement across the two legs of the closed road event, which claimed a total of 23 competitors in a variety of classes, the vast majority of which were of Portuguese nationality.

“I made a small mistake by entering the corner too early,” said Meeke. “I still tried to correct the trajectory but it was impossible for me to avoid hitting the wall.

“I am the first to regret what happened, especially as the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 was very competitive and I believe I could fight for the win. I love this rally and I hope to come back one day as the crowd’s support is fantastic.”

Since joining Team Hyundai Portugal in April as a replacement driver for the late Craig Breen, the 44-year-old has enjoyed success at Rali Terras d’Aboboreira and Rali de Castello Branco with these coming either side of retirement on May’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal due to suspension damage.

There are only two more rounds of this year’s Portuguese Rally Championship remaining, with Rali da Agua first up on the weekend of September 15-16 followed by Rallye Vidreiro on October 13-15.

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