Seven stages, seven victories: Such was Peugeot UK driver Kris Meeke's day at the Rally Internacional de Curitiba at the conclusion of the first day. The U.K. driver completed the nearly 10-kilometre seventh and the day’s final stage in a time of 3:55.2, creating a perfect finish to as close to a perfect day one can have in Rallying.
"It's been the perfect day for me. I've really enjoyed myself driving this car over these fantastic roads. I have to say that this is one of the best rallies I have ever driven on.” Said Meeke.
“It's amazing how when you have a good feeling with the car, everything just comes easily. The contrast with Monte Carlo could not be greater: I think Monte Carlo was the most difficult rally I have ever done. Here, I'm feeling very confident.”
The only real challenge to Meeke’s perfect streak happened during the last stage when Anton Alen in his Fiat-Abarth Grande Punto took second place only 0.3 seconds behind.
Meeke’s performance left no doubt who was leading. The real action was for second place. It was at end of the final stage of the day that factory Abarth Grande Punto driver Giandomenico Basso nipped Nicolas Vouilloz in his Peugeot Belgium 207 S2000.
The two drivers both enjoyed a clean runs the entire day with no problems, but in the end it was Basso who overhauled the reigning IRC champion. Both are looking forward to continuing their dual on the final day of the rally tomorrow were they will start the day separated by just 0.3 seconds.
Extremely strong was delivered by Argentinean driver Alejandro Cancio driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Cancio set times that were never out of the top six and concluding the day with a third-fastest time on the final stage of the day which landed him in fourth place.
For finishing second in January's opening round of the IRC in Monte Carlo Peugeot Belgium's Freddy Loix was rewarded with the uninviting assignment of sweeping it clean for all the following competitors.
He consequently lost a lot of time sliding on loose gravel and ended in fifth place overall, 18 seconds behind Cancio.
Rounding out the point-scoring places was The Paraguayan Victor Galeano in sixth, ahead of the top two Brazilian competitors Oswaldo Scheer and Paulo Nobre in their Mitsubishis.
The hard and compacted surfaces of Brazilian gravel roads claimed their share of victims today.
Anton Alen impacted his factory Abarth Grande Punto with a rock on a first gear corner towards the end of third Special Stage, which punctured his left rear tire and also damaged a suspension joint.
Alen, who had been running in a strong second place, made emergency repairs on the side of the road. The Finn then lost time having to drive slowly through the next stage.
Back at the service parc, his mechanics repaired the car to full health and Alen was able to return to his previous pace, setting the aforementioned time on the final stage of the day.
Marcos Ligato from Argentina was running in an admirable fifth place until SS4, when he picked up a tire puncture that he did not stop to change. Regrettably, the rubber from the flailing tire damaged the radiator of his Mitsubishi, which ended his day.
The top three places for the IRC’s 2WD Cup are all being claimed by local Brazilian drivers led Rafael Tulio in a Peugeot 206 S1600. Luis Tedesco is second, just over a minute behind in a Fiat Palio S1600. Peugeot's Marcos Tokarski is third in this fiercely contested category.
IRC RESULTS AFTER SS7, RALLY INTERNACIONAL DE CURITIBA (BRAZIL)
1 Meeke/Nagle Peugeot 207 S2000 50m47.0s
2 Basso/Dotta Abarth Grande Punto S2000 +48.6s
3 Vouilloz/Klinger Peugeot 207 S2000 +48.9s
4 Cancio/Garcia Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +1m03.6s
5 Loix/Smeets Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m22.5s
6 Galeano/Fabiani Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +2m31.6s
7 Scheer/Rocha Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +5m36.6s
8 Nobre/Paula Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +7m03.6s
9 Tulio/Valandro Peugeot 206 S1600 +8m22.2s
10 Alen/Alanne Abarth Grande Punto S2000 +9m32.9s
Quotes and Photo courtesy of the IRC.