Meeke collects more points on Swedish debut

Win number three on Rally Sweden for Jari Matti Latvala, he took the lead on the penultimate day in his VW Polo R but could only relax when Mikkelsen dropped time after sliding into a snowbank on the final day.

Kris Meeke fell foul of a snowbank on the final day and his Citroen was stranded for some seven minutes on stage 18 and when he got back on the road he had dropped from sixth to fourteenth.

He fought back as best he could to eventually make it into the top ten in tenth place.

“I think I can be pleased with this first rally on snow,” said Meeke.

“The only minor mistake we made proved very costly. If there had been spectators around, we would probably have only lost fifteen seconds or so.

“But we had to get the car out ourselves. However, the rest of the weekend went very well. We have learned a lot.

“The main thing for me is that we managed to get close to the leading guys. And finishing in the points is encouraging for the rest of the season.”

The Dungannon driver was praised by Citreon boss Yves Matton; “Kris had an intelligent race. He completed all the stages and I don’t think we can hold his minor mistake against him.

“At the end of the day, he has produced a better performance that many a driver at their first Rally Sweden.”

There was bitter disappointment for the reigning World Rally Champion Sebastian Ogier.

The VW driver was aiming to repeat his win of last year, but a snowbank halted his progress and all that he could do was to claw his way back up the leaderboard to finish sixth overall.

With Latvala taking the spoils and two points in the final Super Special Stage he also lost the lead in the championship.

“It’s my third win here and I’ve never won the same rally three times,” said Latvala, who was embraced at the finish of the final stage by father Jari.

“It feels amazing to win here, it’s something very, very special.

“It’s a long time since my win in Greece last year. That was more about tactics and saving the car, but this is a high-speed event so it gives me confidence that I can also win high-speed rallies. I really needed a good result here.”

Star of the final Super Special Stage was Meeke’s Citroen teammate Mads Ostberg he beat Latvala by a mere second and finished third overall behind Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen.

For Ostberg it was his third time to be on the podium in Sweden.

“We have made a lot of progress since Friday,” he said.

“I’m pleased to finish on the podium in Sweden for the fourth year running! The three points from the Power Stage are a nice bonus.

“I feel more and more confident in the car, which is promising for the next few events.”

Ireland’s Craig Breen at the wheel of his family owned Ford Fiesta put in a very steady performance and his reward was to finish one place ahead of Meeke in ninth.

On their return to the World Rally Championship Hyundai showed promise before both their entries hit problems, with Thierry Neuville and Juho Hanninen both crashing out.

The action will continue in one month in a very different environment when the championship moves to Mexico for round three.