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GP Week : Issue 45
A FTER leading the rally for a full two days and winning the majority of the stages in the Sata Rallye Acores, British driver Kris Meeke (UK team Peugeot) scored his second IRC championship win of the season, beating Skoda driver Jan Kopecky. Peugeot drivers now hold the top three IRC series places with Meeke heading Kronos teammates Freddy Loix and Nicolas Vouilloz, leading Kopecky and Fiat driver Giandomenico Basso. Fiat had a disastrous event, but both Skodas held second place at various times, but then Kopecky’s teammate Juho Hanninen made two costly driving errors. Meeke drove brilliantly but had a major slice of luck en route... The mid-Atlantic gravel event was round four of the IRC . Four top Super 2000 teams were competing: Fiat Abarth, Peugeot Belux/ UK, Skoda and a single entry from Rene Georges VW – none of whom had been to the event before. This was to be a veritable ‘level playing field’. In addition the organisers had invited Conrad Rautenbach as the official guest entry: his Peugeot was prepared by PH Sport, the first time this traditional Citroen feeder preparation company had run a Peugeot and the first time an S2000. Of the 47 starters, 12 were S2000s. A televised side-by-side Superspecial on Thursday evening gave Freddy Loix a moment of glory before he punctured on the first stage on Friday. This left Meeke fractionally ahead of Hanninen, who then reached the end of Stage 3 with the rear right suspension badly damaged. He lost around 10 minutes on Stage 4 and baulked other drivers, especially third placed Magalhaes, who fell behind Vouilloz as a result. Meeke then finished Stage 4 with a collapsed wheel, yet still made best time. “Sometimes I am lucky! I touched a rock two corners from the end of the stage, but the wheel held intact until the finish line before it completely broke. I actually thought I merely had a puncture”. At the first service halt Peugeots were 1-2-3, Alen was fourth and best Fiat, Kopecky fifth and best Skoda During the afternoon Kopecky passed 40 Alen into third and set about catching Vouilloz which he did on the second full day. Fiats had been lying fourth and sixth at the end of the first day, but VW driver Julien Maurin retired with engine failure on arriving back at halfway when 12th. Day Two brought gloomy weather and doom for Fiat. Firstly Basso damaged the suspension and retired then, reminiscent of Monte Carlo when Anton Alen retired after the final stage, the Finn spun on the final stage and lost a quarter of an hour. The reverse gear had broken. Frenchman Denis Millet gained the first international success for Peugeot’s new turbocharged Group R3T 207 RC Rallye model when he won his class and finished best two-wheel-drive car on the event. Next IRC event is Ypres in mid June.