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GP Week : Issue 65
GPWEEK OPINION >> opening in a championship which (still) not many people knew anything about. Marc Van Dalen, chief of the Peugeot Kronos team who run the Peugeot UK team car for Meeke alongside their regular entries for the Belux team drivers Vouilloz and Loix, was under no illusion. At the start of the season he said: "Kris is in a class well above the other drivers in the team. I think he stands a good chance of winning every rally he enters!" He has now won four... Co-driver Paul Nagle from the south side of the Irish border has been a major part of the winning equation. He has been enthralled by everything in the IRC series and especially how they fitted in: "It all started so badly. We had been leading Monte Carlo and then we crashed. We left with zero points. But it got better from then onwards. Like everyone, we missed the rally in Kenya, but we won the next three events. But looking back on everything the two things I will always remember was Kris beating all the Belgians in Ypres and then beating all the Italians at Sanremo!" Kris Meeke has earned his place among the immortal Irish rally drivers, people like the FIA's World PCWRC champion Niall MacShea, British champion Billy Coleman, Monte Carlo winners Paddy Hopkirk and Ronnie Adams -- and of course, not forgetting new British champion Keith Cronin. There is a special heritage among the Irish rally drivers and it has just got very much stronger! would be there. They'd booked the tickets and everything. It is not hard, however, to imagine the apprehension of the greeting party at Lisbon airport on Wednesday. Butterflies and double espressos all round. Off the record, however, I hear that the factory has briefed super-sub Aleix Espargaro to have his boots and leathers ready. Just in case. Either way, at least the speculation will come to an end. The three-weekend break enforced by the cancellation of the Hungarian GP has been a rather listless time for a racing season that was gathering momentum, and much idle chatter has centred around Stoner's imagined reaction to the various events. These range from Ducati's attempt to sign Lorenzo to the possibility that Rossi might be eyeing a move to the Italian team in 2011. Stoner's strange year has played a large part in dividing the season into three parts. The first phase, the first five races, was a primrose period when almost anything could happen. Stoner won the first and the fifth rounds; in between Lorenzo took two races and Rossi only one, while Pedrosa was gaining strength. From now on Stoner ceased to be a factor. This focused phase two, a purple patch where the battle between Rossi and Lorenzo took over. There was a series of fascinating exchanges between the pair, with Rossi firmly establishing his seniority ... in spite of his schoolboy error at Indianapolis. Stoner was missing from the closing stages of this battle, but is scheduled to be back for the forthcoming final phase, four races where Rossi will be looking to drive home the point, against the strongest competition he has ever faced. Will Casey be physically and mentally strong enough to play any part? That's what we'll be going to Estoril to see. Sure hope Casey comes too. l inherit the Irish mantle Stoner 21