GUY Wilks made the most of a bad situation to grab two precious points at the end of the Monte Carlo Rally.

Darlington driver Wilks, competing in the Junior World Rally Championship, crashed out in his Suzuki Ignis on Saturday, day two of the arduous event, but under new rules he was allowed to re-enter the fray - albeit with a five minute penalty.

Wilks, and co-driver Phil Pugh, gave it their best shot, given they were as high as fourth, before finishing a creditable seventh in class.

Wilks began day two suffering from the same problem he had encountered on the opening sortee - a soft brake pedal. While he managed to limit the time loss, he was not able to drive with his trademark confidence.

Drama ensued on the final stage of the day when he crashed into a bridge on an icy corner that had already claimed several victims damaging a front wing and part of his suspension.

"I concentrated on driving more smoothly than I had done on Friday," said Wilks.

"But when I tried to make up some time on the downhill slope of the opening stage I felt the brake pedal go soft again and it interrupted my rhythm.

"The accident on the final stage was just bad luck because everybody crashed on that corner; I was just more unfortunate than most."

Under the new re-entry rules, drivers who retire are allowed to re-start the following leg with a penalty of five minutes on top of the faster JWRC time per every stage missed, provided the cars are repaired and placed in Parc Ferme at least four hours before the start of the leg. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Suzuki mechanics both Wilks and team-mate and reigning JWRC champion P-G Andersson, who had also crashed out, were able to start yesterday.

"These are probably the hardest two points I have ever scored in my life!" said Wilks.

"What happened to me on Saturday was extremely unfortunate but at least we haven't come away from this rally entirely empty-handed. The last day was quite difficult as it's not as easy to stay motivated when you are not fighting for a top position, but it could have been far worse."

Citroen's Meeke won a tense final day battle with Suzuki's Kosti Katajamaki to take overall victory among the JWRC entrants.

Meeke overcame a 13.3 second deficit to seal his and the Citroen C2's maiden successes in the class.

In the main event, Sebastien Loeb claimed a hat-trick of Monte Carlo Rally wins.

The Frenchman started the final leg with an imposing advantage and steered clear of trouble as his main rivals dropped away.

Marcus Gronholm lost a wheel after smashing his Peugeot into a wall. Petter Solberg is expected to be Loeb's main threat in the championship chase but the Subaru driver continued his poor run of form crashed out yesterday morning.

Published: 24/01/2005