Late scare for Meeke in Azores
Peugeot's Kris Meeke remains on course for victory on the Sata Rallye Azores, but lost a significant chunk of time to the chasing pack on the mid-afternoon loop of stages of the final day.
Meeke, who is bidding for a second successive event win in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, held a lead of over a minute at lunchtime but dropped 17 seconds to nearest pursuer Jan Kopecky of Skoda.
Torrential rain this morning, coupled with the organizers regrading the surface of stages that were used yesterday, caused huge puddles of standing water to form. As Meeke was first on the road, he found himself with the worst road conditions. His Peugeot 207 returned to service looking very second-hand, with damaged front and rear bumpers.
Co-driver Paul Nagle explained: "There was just so much standing water. The front bumper was torn off as we splashed through it. In fact, it sat on the bonnet for half a stage! We even lost time on the superspecial because we were the first through it. It was really tough."
Weather conditions have improved substantially now, with bright sunshine bathing most of the mid-Atlantic island.
Despite gaining time on the leader, second-placed Kopecky says he is not expecting to steal an unexpected victory.
"I don't think so, I think Kris is controlling the race," he said going into final service.
Meeke's lead is 44.2s going into the final two long stages, which he has described as, "the most difficult of the event. Real back-breakers."