Meeke bags emotional GB podiumposted in WRC15 | 11 | 2015

    COLIN McRAE PROTEGE, Irishman Kris Meeke, capped an emotional weekend by sealing second place in the Wales Rally GB, the final round of the World Rally Championship.

    This year's event in North Wales marked the 20th anniversary of Lanark ace McRae winning his only World Rally Championship.

    As a 27-year-old, McRae — who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 2007 — powered his famous blue-and-yellow liveried Subaru to a dramatic victory in 1995 ahead of team-mate, Spaniard Carlos Sainz.

    Meeke, the 36-year-old from Dungannon in Northern Ireland, was guided by McRae through the early part of his career often receiving intensive mentoring while living at the Scot's Lanarkshire castle.

    Today the Irishman powered his Citroen through the final sodden, rainswept and near-flooded muddy forest stages to seal a comfortable second place.

    "It was important for me to finish on the podium this weekend for a whole number of reasons," stated Meeke, who earlier this season dedicated his maiden WRC win in Argentina to McRae.

    "I needed to score good points to ensure second place in the Manufacturers' Championship for Citroen, and we've done that.

    Related: Colin McRae celebrations at Wales Rally GB

    "And personally, to finish on the podium and mark the 20th anniversary of Colin's only world championship title in 1995 is very, very special to me.

    "I felt good all weekend, and I really enjoyed the last three days. Yeh, it's been tough: these have been some of the most demanding conditions I've ever rallied in. But we got the result we were looking for."

    Meeke's podium was the first for a Briton on their home WRC event since Oxford's Richard Burns, co-driven by Perthshire's Robert Reid, sealed the 2001 title with third, and the best home result since Burns's '00 win.

    While Meeke finished 10.2-seconds ahead of the Volkswagen of third-placed Andreas Mikkelson — the Norwegian is a past winner of RallyScotland — it was a sombre victory for Frenchman Sebastien Ogier.

    Just 36-hours after the terrorist attack in Paris, Ogier's celebrations at the end of the final stage were understandably muted.

    Rather than perform the traditional celebrations by clambering on to the roof of his VW Polo, he and co-driver Julien Ingrassia simply unfolded a French Tricolour and held it in silence across the windscreen of their all-conquering car.

    "It's the best way to finish the season from a sporting perspective, but today is not a day for celebrations," three-times world champ Ogier, whose victory in Wales Rally GB — he finished 26s ahead of Meeke — was his third in succession, and seventh win of the year, said.

    Related: Kris Meeke hot on the heels of Sebastien Ogier

    "It's been a difficult weekend after what happened in Paris on Friday evening. Saturday morning was tough, very tough: but we need to carry on.

    "Personally, it's been a fantastic season for me. Only the small mistake in the last rally, on the final stage in Spain which cost me the victory, was a negative. Other than that, the year has been fantastic."

    Meanwhile, there was heartbreak for Castle Douglas driver and 2015 Scottish Rally champion, Jock Armstrong, in the Network Q WRGB National Rally, run over the same stages as the full WRC event.

    The Subaru driver entered the final stage with a healthy 90-second lead over fellow Scot Mike Faulkner.

    But within sight of the finish of the 19th and final stage at Brenig, Armstrong's Subaru ground to a halt with technical problems.

    His retirement allowed Faulkner from Kirtlebridge to inherit the win in his Mitsubishi Evo IX, finishing a comfortable 4mins 43.5secs ahead of David Howells.

    And there was further disappointment for Colin McRae's dad, five-times British Rally Champion Jimmy.

    The 72-year-old veteran was on course to finish just outside the top 10 in the Network Q WRGB National Rally,  and win the Historics Class, but his Vauxhall Firenza also cruelly  stopped on the final stage within sight of the finish.

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    Jim McGill


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