Kris Meeke got his Intercontinental Rally Challenge title defence back on course with a comfortable victory in the Rally of Curitiba
The Peugeot UK driver had crashed out of the season opener in Monte Carlo, but he swiftly put that behind him by dominating the opening day in Brazil. Having established a half-minute cushion, he then cruised through the second half of the event to ensure he repeated his 2009 win.
"It's been absolutely fabulous, a near perfect result," said Meeke, whose fifth series win is a record in the fledgling IRC.
"We had a strategy before the rally to put our knowledge to good use in the beginning and we were able to take a bit of a lead. I'm starting to get a bit more experience of how to control a lead on the final day.
"I was so hungry after Monte Carlo to get to Brazil. I know what it takes to win and I want to keep it that way."
Guy Wilks ran second throughout, showing much better pace for Skoda UK than he had in Monte Carlo.
"We had some good pace here," Wilks acknowledged. "Kris's experience paid off on the first day. We're pleased with second. After he had 30s [lead] overnight, we tried on the first stage [today] to see what we could do, and we realised it wasn't really on. We need to work on the car a bit more, get the set-up more to my liking."
A puncture on the very first stage denied Skoda's Juho Hanninen any chance of trying to challenge Meeke. He recovered from sixth to third, helped by his team-mate Jan Kopecky also picking up a puncture today, and therefore maintains a narrow points lead.
"We had some troubles yesterday. We were pushing today, but we couldn't fight for higher places," rued Hanninen, who won every stage on day two.
The final day of the rally was truncated from eight to five stages as the after-effects of a heavy overnight storm prevented several stages - including the planned rally-ending superspecial - from being run.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Kris Meeke Peugeot 1h42m45.4s 2. Guy Wilks Skoda + 46.7s 3. Juho Hanninen Skoda + 1m20.2s 4. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 1m49.3s 5. Bruno Magalhaes Peugeot + 4m05.5s 6. Eduardo Scheer Mitsubishi + 14m00.4s 7. Daniel Oliveira Peugeot + 14m41.8s 8. Rafael Tulio VW + 18m21.2s 9. Juan San Martin Subaru + 23m42.6s 10. Roberto Theodoro Peugeot + 24m01.9s
The fifth Intercontinental Rally Challenge was the best yet, and it was Skoda UK driver Andreas Mikkelsen who emerged as champion from a tense five-way shootout at the season finale. Matt Beer reviews the season