THE Wales Rally GB roared into life in Cheshire on Thursday evening as British driver Kris Meeke topped the timesheet more than two seconds faster than the chasing pack.

The FIW World Rally Championship 2019 got underway at the glitzy ceremonial start on the Waterfront in Liverpool. A bumper crowd assembled to grab autographs and meet their hero before more than 50 international racing cars took to the circuit at Oulton Park, near Chester at 7pm.

It was the Welsh ace and British Rally Champion Matt Edwards who had the honour of being the first rider over the start ramp, in a rather loud Hyundai i20 R5.

Marking the 75th anniversary of the Rally GB in high profile this year, six-time Olympic track cyclist champion and racing driver Sir Chris Hoy was invited to drive Colin McRae’s winning Subaru Impreza car on the circuit.


1. Kris Meeke/Seb Marshal - Toyota Yaris WRC - 2m 47.4sec

2. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul - Hyundai i20 WRC - +2.1sec

3. Petter Solberg/Phil Mills - Volkswagen Polo R5 - +3.3sec

4. Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia - Citroen C3 WRC - +3.8sec

5. Andreas MIkkleson/Andreas Jager - Hyundai i20 WRC - +4.1sec

6. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm - Citroen C3 WRC - +4.7sec

7. Matthew Edwards/Mark Glennerster - Hyundai i20 R5 - +5.4sec

8. Jari-Matti Latvala/ Mikka Anttila - Toyota Yaris WRC - +5.7sec

9. Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen - Skoda Fabia R5 - +5.8sec

10. Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maceij Szczepaniak - Volkswagen Polo R5 - +6.1 sec

“It’s terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure because you have this iconic car of so many people’s hero, my hero certainly, and you want to do it justice but you also don’t want to damage it,” said Hoy.

“I thought I just need to get round but equally, as the great man [McRae] himself would say, ‘if in doubt flat out’.”

The Wales Rally GB action soon followed on the 2.2mile opening stage and the crowds were wowed with an impressive array of skill.

Breath-taking donuts on the pit straight set the scene for the remainder of the demanding opener. Drivers then descended the sweeping bends, before a watersplash and tight and technical gravel roads.

Ulsterman Kris Meeke and co-driver Seb Marshall topped the timesheet 2.1 seconds before the Hyundai i20 of Thierry Neuville. Petter Solberg’s giant-killing Volkswagen Polo R5 rounded out the top three, with treacherous conditions offering an additional challenge for the leaders.

Action on the stages resume on Friday with nine stages and over 75 miles of flat out and relentless action in the forests of North Wales. The mix of fan-friendly blasts and treacherous bends include Dyfnant, Penmachno and the moonlit stage at Aberhirnant.

Crews will then head into mid-Wales on Saturday the for seven high-octane stages, ending in Colwyn Bay along the seafront.

Sunday is a short day in comparison but the Wales Rally GB’s parting shot will be no less demanding on stages in Alwen, Brenig and the finish line at the Great Orme.

The winners will be crowned in front of fans and teams at the Ceremonial Finish on Llandudno Promenade that afternoon.

Tickets are still available via the official website and at the gate of every stage.