There was bitter disappointment for Kris Meeke in Monte Carlo in the opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship with the Dungannon driver forced to retire his Citroen on the penultimate stage of day three with a damaged gearbox.
At the end of stage twelve, Meeke explained; “something in the middle of the road touched the underneath of the car and ripped off the sump guard, this also damaged the gearbox”.
On the previous stage the Dungannon driver set the fastest time just over three seconds faster than Sebastien Ogier’s VW Polo, the highlight of the event up until the incident had been the battle between the pair as they accelerated clear of the field. A battle that even Ogier admitted that he was enjoying.
Yet again Ogier claimed the top honour, his fourth victory going on to say that the Monte Carlo Rally is the most important of the season for him.
His team mate Andreas Mikkelsen finished second almost two minutes behind the World Rally Champion with Belgian Thierry Neuville third in a Hyundai.
Derek McGarrity triumphed at Kirkistown in the New Year Stages; the Glengormley driver was at the wheel of his new Ford Fiesta World Rally Car.
However in the opening two stages it was the number one seed Kenny McKinstry fresh from winning the Icebreaker Rally who set the pace with his Subaru WRC, but his glory was shortened when he was forced to retire with a driveshaft problem.
The battle then came down to McGarrity and Desi Henry with his Skoda R5, he set fastest times on stages three and four, but McGarrity pulled out all of the stops to win the final two stages and the event by some thirteen seconds.
One of the most impressive drives of the day came from Kyle White who brought his little Citroen C2R2 into third place, clearly a star of the future.
The top six was rounded off by George Robinson (Mitsubishi EVO 9), Alan Atcheson (Skoda Fabia) and Matthew McGaffin (Mitsubishi EVO 9).