Meeke wins Mexico rally after parking lot detour

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Citroen C3 WRC British driver Kris Meeke (right) and his co-driver Irish Paul Nagle celebrate their victory following the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship in Leon, Guanajuato State, Mexico on March 12. A badly-landed jump threw Meeke off-course late in the final stage, forcing him to detour through a busy parking lot and drive through a hedge to regain the road and cross the finish line. AFP PHOTO

LEÓN, Mexico: Kris Meeke won the Rally of Mexico on Sunday but only after having to negotiate his way at high speed through a busy public car park to reach the finish line.

The 37-year-old Northern Irishman dominated the weekend, leading from the opening stage on the second day in his Citroen to finish ahead of world champion Sebastien Ogier in the M-Sport/Ford.

But Meeke almost came unstuck on the final power stage of the race when he came off the road and ended up in a car park.

He then had to slalom his way past parked vehicles as well as spectators in order to regain his place on the dirt road racing surface, bursting through a hedge in the process.

“After a jump, I took a hit. I’m really a lucky boy. What a way to finish the rally,” said Meeke, who was in such a state of shock at the dramatic turn of events that he had to be helped by co-driver Paul Nagle to climb onto the roof of their Citroen to start the celebrations.

“I was in the hands of God. I finally made my way between the cars but had punctured the front left tire. When I crossed the line I didn’t know whether I had won or not,” he added.

Ogier, who won the season-opener in Monte Carlo, took over the lead in the world championship from Finland’s Toyota driver Jari-Matti Latvala who was only sixth in Mexico.

“You could say that he had God with him,” said Ogier of Meeke’s dramatic finish.

Ogier, the Mexico winner in 2013, 2014 and 2015, started the final day over 20 seconds behind Meeke and was never able to mount a sustained challenge.

“It’s a big performance, we can only be happy,” said the four-time world champion.

The fourth round of the championship will take place in Corsica from April 7 to 9.

AFP

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