Kris Meeke gave the best performance of his career to date on the Rally GB at the weekend, taking the battle to the JWRC frontrunners in his Team Palmer Opel Corsa before an untimely exit from the event.

The rally, which is usually remembered for its mud and bad weather, was mostly dry in 2003, but still very slippery. However, with the JWRC title almost a forgone conclusion, and this being the final round of the championship, the battle was on for the outright win.

Meeke opened his account with two fastest stages times to take an early lead, which he retained for the most of the day until stage four, when he damaged a suspension strut. With another stage still left before service, Daniel Carlsson took the lead and Meeke did well to restrict his lead to only eight seconds. Mirco Baldacci finished the day in third position, only four seconds adrift of the McRae scholar.

Battle resumed on day two as Meeke and Carlsson began to pull away from the rest of the field. The pair traded stage times all day, but just as Meeke got within five seconds of the Swede, the Opel Corsa encountered an electrical problem, which restricted the car to only 70 per cent throttle for the longest stage of the rally. Meeke dropped twenty seconds to Carlsson in all, but the Team Palmer driver ended the day second in JWRC and 17th overall in the main event.

With only three stages on the final day, there was only a slim chance of catching Carlsson, but the Ulsterman trimmed six seconds off his lead. With a same stage repeated again, Meeke wanted to keep the pressure on but, as he swerved to avoid a rock in the middle of the road, he rolled out of the rally. It was a disappointing end to what could be described as Meeke's home event.

"The accident was fairly simple," the dejected driver said, "I was committed to the line for the corner and swerved to avoid a rock torn out from a previous competitor. The car got unto the loose gravel and slid off the road. Maybe I should have hit the rock and suffered the consequences, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I am disappointed for the team, as car ran almost faultlessly all weekend, apart from a freak electrical problem.

"Taking some positives from the event, I have raised my game this weekend. It's only when you are locked in a battle that you can really push to the limit. There was no margin for error, and the accident proved that. Fair credit to Daniel, it was an awesome battle, and wish him all the best as he moves on to a works drive for the Peugeot WRC team."

 

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