Any hopes Peugeot had of retaining the driver’s title for the fourth consecutive year were dashed as the Intercontinental Rally Challenge left the Czech Republic last weekend.
Defending series champion, Kris Meeke was looking to deliver a strong result and hope those ahead of him in the championship standings faltered to let him back in with a realistic chance of the title.
This was not the vase, and despite Jan Kopecky failing to finish the event, Meeke could only watch on as Juho HÃ¤nninen finished second, meaning his points tally became out of reach for Meeke this season.
Jan Kopecky led for much of the really, but two offs, one of them decisive, handed the lead to Peugeot’s Bryan Bouffier.
However, Bouffier could not capitalise and had an off himself, which allowed Freddy Loix through to win the Zlin based rally.
Meeke could only finish fourth, which tied with HÃ¤nninen’s second, left the Briton with no mathematical chance of the title this year, and at the same time, meant that Peugeot would not have a champion driver for the first time since 2006.
Since the IRC’s inception in 2006, the year in which Giandomenico Basso delivered the title for Fiat, Peugeot has enjoyed a clean sweep of titles with Enrique GarcÃa-Ojeda in 2007, Nicolas Vouilloz in 2008 and Kris Meeke in 2009.
Meeke had the desire to push harder in the Czech Republic, but never felt comfortable with the choice of tyres.
“I think I could have challenged for the win but I just never seemed to be on the right tyres. It rained frequently, but not once when I expected it to”, said Meeke.
Whilst in the lead Bouffier had a small off, in which he damaged suspension. He was able to repair the damage, and continue, but lost time and the rally lead.
He elected to push to try and retake the lead, which saw him have a more serious incident, which dropped him to an eventual 10th.
Speaking of the second off, Bouffier said “I had nothing to lose, so I gave it everything I had on the last stage. Braking for a corner, though, my windscreen was smattered with cooling fluid. Practically at the same time, I felt my front wheels lose grip and I ended up off the road”.