Kris Meeke made an impressive start in Monte Carlo in the opening round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship.
In slippery conditions the Dungannon driver steered his Citroen to second fastest time on the opening special stage, just 4.1 seconds adrift of the reigning World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier in his works VW Polo.
Meeke then swept into the lead on stage two with a time eleven seconds ahead of the field to overtake Ogier and will start today with a 6.9 second advantage over the French driver.
“I am feeling good and looking forward to the day two action,” said Meeke who rates the Monte Carlo Rally amongst his favourites.
“I did get a scare as I spun on a hairpin early in the (opening) stage and I reckon it cost me seven seconds.”
Had it not have been for his moment he probably would have topped the time sheets as Ogier found the conditions slippery, admitting that he was cautious and could have gone faster.
Ogier’s two team-mates, Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala, occupied the next two places while Thierry Neuville and Mads Ostberg rounded out the top half dozen.
Meeke set the pace in the pre-event shakedown as the Abu Dhabi Total WRT driver posted the quickest time on his first run before the road became increasingly muddy, making it impossible to improve at all.
“Although the shakedown is not very important, I was pleased to get back into the car in competitive conditions,” Meeke added.
“The road was not very representative of the rest of the rally; it was very narrow and became covered with mud very quickly.
“I felt confident, with a good feeling and my times were pretty good. There was a lot of snow during the recce but it has melted since then and I do not really know what the conditions will be like in the rally itself.
“It will be especially difficult tomorrow evening, with the opening two stages being held after dark.”
Meanwhile, amongst the latest entries at Kirkistown tomorrow for the New Year Stages will be the R5s of Stephen Wright and Desi Henry while Derek McGarrity will drive a Ford Fiesta WRC.
The R5 is the category of car which will compete in the premier class in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.