Today has been a great day for the team with Kris setting the fastest times on six of the nine stages and ending the day with a 40.2s lead over team mate Nicolas Vouilloz. The day started well for us with Kris setting the second fastest time on SS2 Feteiras and taking the lead from overnight leader Freddy Loix who had a puncture on the stage, dropping him to 19th position.
SS3 Sete Cidades saw Kris set his first fastest time and increase his lead over Juho Hänninen to 2.8s. Juho unfortunately managed to hit a wall at the end of the stage damaging the right-hand rear of his Skoda. The impact was sufficient to drop him down to 38th position by the end of the next stage SS4. SS4 Pinhal da Paz again saw Kris set another fastest time, but it could have been a different story. Towards the end of the stage Kris hit a rock which was not in his pace notes and damaged the right-hand rear wheel. Unaware of the damage Kris pressed on only for the wheel to fail completely as the car slowed for the stage end time control. (Check out the video of the incident on www.peugeot.co.uk/rally) Instead of four wheels on our wagon, it became three, as Kris and Paul watched in amazement as the wheel bounced its way through the time control.
A quick wheel change and collection of the broken wheel was all that was required to get the car back on the road and heading for the day’s first visit back to the Service Area. The luck of the Irish had clearly been with us as even finishing on three wheels Kris and Paul still set the fastest time and increased their overall lead to 13.2s ahead of his team mate Nicolas Vouilloz. With this experience at the back of his mind Kris immediately got back into the groove and was just beaten to the fastest stage time by Jan Kopecky, by 0.1s. He, however, was 1.3s faster than Nicolas so increased his lead to 14.5s. SS6 Corona da Mata saw Freddy Loix set the fastest time and on SS7 L Maia / Achada das Furnas we were back on top, setting the fastest time and heading back to Service with a 22.9s lead over Nicolas.
After Service Kris and Paul headed back for their second run through Feteiras SS8 and a fault less run saw Kris again set the fastest time increasing his lead over his team mate to 27.1s. The second run through Sete Cidades SS9 saw Kris set the fastest time of 10:12.3s increasing his lead further to 31.1s. The final stage of the day, and the second run through Pinhal da Paz SS10, saw Juho Hänninen crash out heavily in his Skoda, delaying the running of the stage by over an hour. Even with having to wait for over an hour, Kris and Paul confirmed their dominate position by setting their sixth fastest time and ending the first day with a 40.2s lead.
Overall results after SS10 1 Peugeot 207 S2000 Kris Meeke 1h 20m 29.8s2 Peugeot 207 S2000 Nicolas Vouilloz +40.2s3 Skoda Fabia S2000 Jan Kopecky +50.6s4 Fiat Punto S2000 Anton Alen +1m 18.2s5 Peugeot 207 S2000 Freddy Loix +1m 47.4s
Now we have only eight more stages to go so we need to drive smoothly tomorrow and protect our lead. We will also run first on the road but, we could see rain tomorrow which could reduce the normal lose of time from sweeping a dry stage. In fact it could actually be an advantage to be first. Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day!