Kris Meeke has become the most successful driver in the short history of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge by winning Rally Internacional de Curitiba for a second time. Co-driven by Paul Nagle, Meeke beat fellow Briton Guy Wilks to victory in Brazil by 46.7 seconds following a
faultless performance in his Peugeot 207 Super 2000. It was Meeke’s fifth win from 12 IRC starts.
Behind Skoda UK driver Wilks, Juho Hänninen claimed six fastest stage times on his way to the final podium spot in third. The result means the Finn now tops the drivers’ standings with 14 points to the 11 Wilks has accumulated during the opening two rounds of the 12-event IRC season.
Meeke’s only cause for concern on day two occurred when he came across a flooded river just under three kilometres into stage ten. He said the section was almost one metre deep and 50 metres in length. At one point he feared he might aquaplane off the road. However, he completed the test unscathed and marked his victory by completing a celebratory lap of the Curitiba race circuit, which is hosting the opening two rounds of the World Touring Car Championship tomorrow (Sunday). The races are being televised live on Eurosport.
Wilks also suffered at the hands of the watersplash when his Škoda Fabia’s engine momentarily cut onto three cylinders after taking in too much liquid. To prevent a repeat of the problem on the second pass of the stage in the afternoon, Wilks attacked the watery section at full speed. He avoided any time loss but damaged his car’s bumper.
Jan Kopecký started the second leg in third place but a right-rear puncture five kilometres before the finish of the Saturday’s first 28.32-kilometre Bocaiuva stage dropped him into Hänninen’s clutches. And his Škoda team-mate duly moved in front on the next stage to run.
Bruno Magalhães scored points on his second IRC event in a row despite reporting making a few mistakes with his pacenotes, which resulted in a loss of confidence. Unable to catch Kopecký for fourth and with his fifth place secured, Magalhães spent the final stages trying different set-ups for the third round of the IRC in Argentina later this month.
Eduardo Scheer completed the top six in his Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer. The Brazilian fought out a close battle with Bolivian Eduardo Peredo, whose similar Lancer suffered an engine failure within sight of the finish of the final stage, where he retired.
Daniel Oliveira had been sixth when he picked up a front-left puncture ten kilometres into Saturday’s first stage. Because it was only a slow puncture Oliveira and new co-driver Denis Giraudet elected to soldier to the end of the stage before changing the damaged tyre. They were rewarded with seventh overall in their Stohl Racing-run 207.
IRC 2WD Cup winner Marcos Tokarski, from Brazil, secured the final IRC drivers’ point in eighth overall aboard his 1600cc Peugeot 207.
Heavy rain during rally week forced organisers to cancel the two Rio Pesqueiro stages when the river of the same name running adjacent to it burst its banks. The event-closing Super Prime Pinhais stage was also lost because of the weather.