WRC - Meeke in the lead on home Rally GB | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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WRC - Meeke in the lead on home Rally GB

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2019 Wales Rally GB - Friday morning

2019 Wales Rally GB - K. Meeke / S. Marshall

Toyota driver Kris Meeke leads a close pack of contenders after the first full loop of stages on Wales Rally GB.

Meeke has been the driver to beat so far on his home event, setting fastest time on Thursday morning’s Shakedown before winning the evening’s opening stage at the Oulton Park circuit. The Ulsterman holds a 2.1 second lead at the end of the Friday morning challenge, which consisted of four forest stages across north Wales. Conditions were typical of the event, with heavy rain making the stages wet and slippery.

Meeke first extended his advantage to 9.2 seconds over Citroën’s Sébastien Ogier in the day’s opening two stages but suffered a setback in SS4 when he had an overshoot. In spite of this, he remains at the top of the leaderboard and leads by six seconds at the midday service in Llandudno.

Second overnight, Thierry Neuville slipped back to fourth after SS3 but claimed second place back on SS5. The Hyundai driver has the two other Toyotas on his tail, within half a second. Jari-Matti Latvala moved ahead of Ott Tänak on SS5 although the Estonian had won the previous two tests. Ogier is 2.3s further back in fifth.

Craig Breen is just a second behind Ogier in sixth in his Hyundai. Behind him, Esapekka Lappi and Andreas Mikkelsen moved past Teemu Suninen, when the M-Sport driver went off in SS4. Suninen’s team-mate Elfyn Evans was fastest on SS2 but damaged his suspension when he ran wide on the following test, and rounds out the top 10.

Kalle Rovanperä leads a fierce fight in FIA WRC 2 Pro in 11th overall: the Škoda’s championship leader is 6.8s in front of Citroën’s Mads Østberg. Gus Greensmith was challenging Rovanperä when he had a high-speed spin in SS4. His M-Sport team-mate Hayden Paddon also went off and retired.

Pierre-Louis Loubet has led FIA WRC 2 from the morning’s first stage ahead of 2003 World Champion Petter Solberg in second place on his farewell event. Solberg’s son Oliver hit trouble early in his FIA WRC debut and had to retire in SS2 with a suspected steering issue.

The FIA Junior WRC title decider is extremely closely fought, with the main protagonists Jan Solans and Tom Kristensson separated by just 0.4s at the top of the leaderboard. Rivals Dennis Rådström and Roland Poom both went off and retired on Friday morning.