Dungannon’s Kris Meeke and his Kerry co-driver Paul Nagle have won Rally Mexico despite a spectacular accident on the final stage.
Having dominated the final two days of the event, which is the third round of the 2017 World championship, Meeke almost threw away his fourth ever World Rally win within sight of the finishing line.
His Citroen car left the road on a fast right-hander 1km before the finish of the last stage around the streets of Derramaderio and ended up in a car park! He then had to manoeuvre it past parked cars and find a gap in the hedge to get the car back on the road.
The 37-year-old Queen’s university graduate was so shocked that he couldn’t climb onto the roof of the car at the end of the stage to celebrate, and had to be helped by co-driver Paul Nagle.
The off-road escapade cost him more than 24 seconds but cushioned that the fact that he had a 37-second advantage over the second placed driver Frenchman Sebastien Ogier going into the stage, he won the rally by 13 seconds to give Citroen its first World championship victory of the 2017 season.
“I got caught out on a bump after the jump. I’m a lucky, lucky boy. That’s certainly one way to finish a rally. We didn’t need that, but we’re okay."
Asked what went through his mind when he went off he replied “Trying to find my way out of the parked cars, trying to find a gap in the hedge – a lot of things went my way,” he acknowledged.
Meeke, who previously won Rally Argentina in 2015 as well as World championship rallies in Portugal and Finland last year, had experienced a frustrating start to the 2017 season in the new Citroen works car. He failed to finish in Monte Carlo and was 12th in Sweden.
Meeke’s Irish team mate Craig Breen did not participate in Rally Mexico but the three Citroen drivers are expecting to have the 2017 car available for the remaining ten rounds of the 2017 championship.
Des Cullen, who has died aged 86, was a towering figure in Irish motorsport. Described as a "naturally gifted all-rounder", he took part in road races, car rallying, motorbike racing, scrambling and auto test at home and abroad, winning more than 1,000 trophies from 1950.