Motorsport: Kris Meeke third in Rally Australia

World rally contender Kris Meeke
World rally contender Kris Meeke

Kris Meeke came so close to winning Rally Australia the latest chapter in the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship and in the end had to settle for third and a richly deserved place on the podium.

His seventh win of the season enabled Sebastien Ogier to enter an exclusive club of multiple title winners.

He joins Sebastien Loeb (nine), Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen (four each) as the only drivers with more than two titles to their name.

As day two drew to a close Meeke held the lead at the wheel of his works Citroen DS3 but on the final stage Ogier powered his Volkswagen Polo to the top of the table.

When Meeke arrived at the finish in utter frustration he jumped from the Citroen, bashed its roof with his fist and was speechless when a TV crew attempted an interview.

A wrong tyre choice had robbed the Dungannon driver, who was the only one who could take the battle to the Volkswagens.

Ogier won the final seven stages of the three-day gravel road event in New South Wales to climb from fourth to first and defeat Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by 12.3seconds,with Meeke a further 20.3seconds behind.

Meeke admitted at the finish he had no answer to the pace of the Polos on the final day.

Having started just three-tenths of a second behind Ogier courtesy of better road conditions in the opening two legs, he quickly fell back and looked set to concede third to Ogier’s teammmate Andreas Mikkelsen.

However, Mikkelsen checked in to Sunday’s mid-leg service late and a 10 second penalty gave Meeke the breathing space he needed.

“I achieved the first target which was to make it to the finish and be consistent,” said Meeke.

“I would point out that I led the rally for almost two days. I think I did a very good job and I could not really have expected to do much more on the final leg, I have to keep working hard.”

Surely his performance in Australia must cast away any doubts that the Citroen team may have in retaining his services for 2016.

In the WRC2 class there was further good news for local rally fans with A Al-Kuwari finishing third with his County Fermanagh co-driver Marshall Clarke.

The championship returns to asphalt for round 11 in October with the Tour de Corse Rallye de France in Corte from October 1-4.