Kris holds a narrow lead after a thrilling opening day of action on the fourth round of 2017 FIA World Rally Championship, the Tour of Corsica.
The first proper asphalt round of the series retains the character that has made it one of the most challenging rallies in Europe – twisty roads, a mixture of smooth and bumpy tar, and extremely long stages. As such, today’s schedule comprised just two stages, measuring 31km and 29km, run in the morning and then repeated in the afternoon.
Kris and his co-driver Paul Nagle didn’t have a particularly good position in the starting order; their Citroen C3 WRC would be the sixth car into the tests, so they knew they’d have to cope with some stretches made slippery by earlier crews cutting the corners and pulling out dirt and gravel.
Even so, Kris was right on the pace from the opening test, where he grabbed an early advantage of 5.7 seconds over the reigning WRC title-holder Sebastien Ogier. He then beat the Frenchman again on the next stage, so Kris arrived at the lunch halt with a cushion of 8.9 seconds.
Ogier fought back on the repeat run through Pietrosella-Albitreccia, grabbing back 0.8sec – but Kris pushed again in the second pass through Plage du Liamone-Sarrola-Carcopino, to extend his lead to 10.3 seconds as the crews headed to the overnight halt.
‘It’s been a good day,’ Kris said. ‘The C3 has been working really well and it’s been giving me a lot of confidence. So our times have been good, but I’ve been driving within myself and just keeping a good rhythm. You always have to be wary of Seb, because he never gives up. But I’m comfortable with my pace, so let’s see how we get on tomorrow.’
Saturday’s schedule includes just four more stages – again, a pair of tests run in the morning and repeated later in the day. But the opening stage of the morning is a full 48km, so it could prove crucial in what is already proving one of the 2017 season’s closest battles.
Tour of Corsica – leading positions after SS4
1 Kris Meeke (Citroen C3 WRC) 1h16m32.1s
2 Sebastien Ogier (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10.3s
3 Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.8s
4 Craig Breen (Citroen C3 WRC) +52.4s
5 Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53.8s
6 Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1m00.2s