“A nation holds its breath” four years today since the carpark incident in Mexico

“A nation holds its breath”

It was a phrase famously coined by RTÉ soccer commentator George Hamilton during Ireland’s World Cup penalty shootout with Romania in 1990 as  David O’Leary stepped-up to take a kick that would ensure The Republic of Ireland’s first  and only quarter final appearance. 

Rally fans across the county felt the same way on Sunday as they watched the drama from the final stage of Rally Mexico unfold in front of them. 

Ahead of this final stage Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle held a solid 37.2 second lead after a dominant performance over the previous three-days. 

They were on the brink of history and salvation.  In theory, all they had to do was clear the test to record their  first win in the new for 2017  Citroen C3 World Rally Car and put their erstwhile disappointing season behind them. 

But nothing is straightforward in rallying and to the disbelieve of the watching 1000s they got caught out on bumpy section of road near the stage finish and plonked their Citroen C3 off  the road and into a spectator car park.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

For next 13 or 14 seconds the rally world held its breath as the Kerry and Tyrone crew searched for a gap in the hedge and a route back to the rally stage. 

For once luck was on their side, in a previous lifetime Meeke and Nagle would have been out of the rally, case in point was on the Monte Carlo Rally in January when an accident with a private car on a road section ended their participation in round one of the World Rally Championship. 

 With the gap found, victory was theirs, deservedly so, by 13 seconds. 

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Meeke said: “I think I might end up telling this story hundreds of times… I’m annoyed with myself for making that mistake. The car went wide after a big compression and we were very lucky. I quickly looked to get back on the road because I knew we could still win. That’s the main thing: we showed the potential of the Citroën C3 WRC in securing the car’s first win. I’m proud and delighted for the entire team, this result is for them.”

It marked a fourth career win for the crew and propelled them from also rans in the series to sixth in the title standings. 

The Citroen Abu Dhabi World Rally team took the lead on Friday afternoon and extended the time difference over four-time world champion Sebastien Ogier over the remaining two days. 

It was a massive performance for the Kerry /Tyrone crew who suffered unbelievable bad luck in Sweden where their Citroen C3 World Rally Car was impossible to drive on the snow-covered roads, and the aforementioned  Monte Carlo incident. 

They put their run of bad luck behind them in Mexico and their masterful display on the first gravel rally of the year quietened their harshest critics.

Reproduced from a March 2017 issue of The Kerryman. Kerry Motorsport News is the motorsport content provider to The Kerryman

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