After two fantastic years with Peugeot UK, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ended their final IRC Rally with a podium position at last weekend’s RACMSA Rally of Scotland.
After three hard days of rallying, Kris and Paul crossed the time control after the final run through the Loch Ard stage, to bring to a close their time with Peugeot UK and end a very successful two years with the Peugeot UK Team.
The eleventh round of the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) lived up to all expectations and produced one of the best rallies of the year and enabled the drivers to drive on some of the toughest stages in the world. The rally kicked off last Friday evening with two runs through the 3.37 kms Scone Palace stage and immediately the expected battle between Guy Wilks and Kris started. Guy set the fastest time on the first run and then the second run saw both drivers set identical times.
Friday night ended with Kris in second place just 1.7 seconds off the lead position.
Saturday saw a very early start for the drivers and the first cars into the 17.34 kms Craigvinean stage entered the forest in complete darkness. With previous experience of the stage Kris had a big advantage and he set the fastest time and leapt to the lead of the rally with an advantage of 4.0 seconds.
The next stage was one of Kris’s favourite stages of any rally, Drummond Hill, and it showed as he extended his lead to 19.8 seconds. Kris and Paul were clearly carrying on where they had left off from last year, setting a pace which the other drivers were finding difficult to match. The final stage of Saturday morning was the 17.68 kms Errochty stage and Kris and Paul were on a mission to maximise their lead. They knew that on the second running of the morning stages the other drivers would improve their times so it was important to gain as much time as possible.
Unfortunately just over 1.5 kms into the stage the car slid wide and the right-hand rear tyre was punctured. With nearly 16 kms still to go the boys had no choice but to drive to the end of the stage with a puncture. In doing so the tyre was destroyed and it badly damaged the rear bodywork of the car. The puncture was a cruel blow and dropped the Peugeot UK 207 S2000 down into fourth place, 38.4 seconds behind the leading car.
With a replacement tyre fitted after the end of the stage it was full speed back to the Perth Service Area to allow the Peugeot UK Technicians to do the necessary repairs. A fully repaired car left the Service Area fifteen minutes later and then the name of the game was maximum attack to get back with the leaders. The first afternoon stage was the second run through Craigvinean and Kris went for it.
He moved back into third position overall as the rally leader Guy Wilks experienced transmission problems which would see his day finished.
Kris and Paul then moved on to the second run through the Drummond Hill stage fired up and ready for battle. Just one kilometre into the stage however, Kris lost all the brakes on his 207 S2000 and had to drive the remaining fourteen kilometres without brakes. At the end of the stage, Kris and Paul tried to fix the problem which had been caused by a damaged rear flexible hose but were only able to restore partial braking to the front of the car. With hardly any brakes on the front and no rear brakes or handbrake they headed into the final stage of the day back in fourth place.
Even without fully functioning brakes Kris and Paul set the fourth fastest time and ended Day Two in fourth place 1m 46.4s off the lead. At the overnight service the brakes were repaired and Kris and Paul’s Peugeot 207 S2000 was ready to do battle again.
Sunday’s action was based in the Lomond and Trossachs National Park south-west of Perth. The first stage was the Clashmore stage and Kris attacked straight away and set a blistering pace. Now running further down the field due to the changes in the running order Kris had to follow in the tracks of the other cars. Near to the end of the stage Kris was confronted by a small tree across the road and had to slow to avoid it, thus dropping about 5 seconds. He exited the stage however, in third place.
The next stage was the longest of the rally, the 29.04 kms Loch Ard stage, made up of a mixture of flat-out sections over crests and tight hairpins. This would be the stage which could change the overall rally result so it was foot to the floor to see how fast the Peugeot UK 207 S2000 could go!
Kris and Paul set the second fastest time, just 3.2 seconds off the best but reported a big heat build up in the car especially under Paul’s seat. A suspected exhaust problem was thought to be the cause as the engine performance was also down.
A quick trip back to the remote service stop in Aberfoyle allowed the Peugeot UK team to check the car over and then it was back to Clashmore for the second run through the stage.
Kris and Paul drove as hard as possible and remained in third place overall as they left for the final stage, the second run through Loch Ard. The boys tried their best but more drama struck as they picked up another puncture and had to drive nearly twenty kilometres with a punctured left-hand rear tyre. They dropped time but still held on to a well deserved third place and more importantly six points which gave them third place overall in the 2010 IRC Drivers’ standings.
Peugeot UK will now concentrate on finding a replacement for Kris and Paul and looks forward to a new chapter in its rally history in the 2011 IRC.