Published on March 7th, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
FIA Rally Mexico 2015, Ogier & VW Leads, On Tough Mexican Soil
A dramatic day of action sees six top crews retire, another escape unscathed from a lake, and Ogier overcome the disadvantage of running first on the road in the WRC’s first gravel round of the season
Volkswagen Motorsport driver Sébastien Ogier has survived a day of carnage on Rally Guanajuato Mexico, overcoming the disadvantage of running first on the road to head the leaderboard after 10 dramatic stages that have seen the demise of no fewer than seven leading contenders. Polo R WRC team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala recovered from a difficult morning to mount a serious assault on Ogier this afternoon and the Finn is just 13.5 seconds adrift of the lead. Mads Østberg has overcome gearbox issues to hold the final provisional podium position.
Rally Mexico got underway last night with the ceremonial start of the season; the UNESCO World Heritage City of Guanajuato once again played host to the biggest and most spectacular opening to a World Rally Championship event and crews delighted thousands of fans with fantastic action through the city’s mining tunnels before heading to a short super special stage on the way back to Leon and the overnight halt. Today, however, it was a different story as the crews headed high into the mountains for oxygen-sapping action over seven long stages before returning to the city for a second run around the super special stage.
The day could not have got off to a more dramatic start for the Estonian crew of Ott Tanak and Raigo Molder, the duo rolling their Fiesta RS WRC into a reservoir. After damaging the front right suspension braking too hard into a compression, Tanak was unable to steer the car around the following corner and it slipped off the edge of the road, rolling them into the water below. The fast-moving crew were thankfully able to quickly escape before the car sank and, remarkably, if it can be recovered in time, the M-Sport World Rally Team hopes they can repair the Fiesta so the crew can re-join the event on Saturday.
Amid the opening stage drama, Ogier – who led after last night’s two short stages – maintained his advantage with an inspired tyre choice this morning and has survived totally unscathed today. He was pushed hard by Thierry Neuville and Kris Meeke early this morning but Meeke went off in the second stage and broke the Citroën’s suspension, leaving Neuville as Ogier’s closest challenger at the lunchtime service. The Belgian’s luck ran out this afternoon however when he picked up a puncture, rolled and damaged the radiator, ending his challenge for the overnight lead. Latvala moved into second and has enjoyed a far more competitive afternoon after admitting to driving badly this morning. He is 16 seconds ahead of Mads Østberg who has also had a better afternoon after a spin this morning, gearbox issues and an excursion into a ditch. Andreas Mikkelsen has taken a conservative approach to the event, limited experience of the Mexican stages forcing him to take it steady; a tactic that has paid dividends as the Norwegian is fourth overnight. Similarly, Elfyn Evans has adopted a risk-free strategy and the Welshman is 18.7 seconds further adrift in fifth. Dani Sordo, piloting the sole remaining Hyundai i20 WRC, is sixth but lost precious seconds with a gear selection problem on the start line of SS4 and a puncture this afternoon. He is ahead of Martin Prokop who has had a few big moments during the day.
In addition to the retirements of Tanak, Meeke and Neuville, four other top world rally car contenders have been forced out today. While holding sixth overall this morning, Robert Kubica clipped a bank, bent the steering and had to stop and change a puncture. In the same stage the steering then broke and he rolled out of contention after running at an impressive pace. Italian Lorenzo Bertelli retired for unconfirmed reasons, Hayden Paddon stopped with damaged rear suspension and local hero Benito Guerra had a big impact and damaged the rear of the car.
As a consequence of all the incidents, WRC 2 contender Yurii Protasov is not only leading his category but is eighth overall ahead of reigning FIA WRC 2 Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah, both of them piloting Ford Fiesta Regional Rally Cars. Peru’s Nicolas Fuchs rounds off the top 10 in an R5 version of the Fiesta.
Rally Guanajuato Mexico – Unofficial Results after Section 3
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia-Volkswagen Polo R WRC-1hr 45min 03.0sec
- Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila-Volkswagen Polo R WRC-1hr 45min 16.5sec
- Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson-DS 3 WRC-1hr 45min 32.5sec
- Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Floene-Volkswagen Polo R WRC-1hr 45min 48.2sec
- Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt-Ford Fiesta RS WRC-1hr 46min 06.9sec
- Dani Sordo/Marc Marti-Hyundai i20 WRC-1hr 46min 43.5sec
- Martin Prokop/Jan Tomanek-Ford Fiesta RS WRC-1hr 47min 06.5sec
- Yurii Protasov/Pavlo Cherepin-Ford Fiesta RRC-1hr 50min 00.7sec
- Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel-Ford Fiesta RRC-1hr 50min 18.2sec
- Nicolas Fuchs/Fernando Musano-Ford Fiesta R5-1hr 53min 01.7sec