Monday 10 March 2014

Rally - Mexico finale

3 rounds in, and there is no end in sight to Volkswagen’s dominance on the FIA World Rally Championship. When the dust settled in Mexico there were no real surprises at the top of the leaderboard. Ogier took the win and Latvala filled the runner-up spot. Thierry Neuville scored a good result in the Hyundai finishing third with Elfyn Evans in the Ford not too far behind. A great result for the youngster.

This was Volkswagen’s 7th victory in a row with Sébastien Ogier commenting afterwards: “Mexico really is a fantastic country for us! I like the rally, and it seems to like me. I picked up my first win as a junior here back in 2008 and took overall victory with Volkswagen last year – and now here I am, back on the top step of the podium. It is a fantastic feeling. Our entire team did a sensational job all weekend, and the Polo R WRC was once again super reliable and super quick in extreme conditions. I was hungry for this win after my mistake in Sweden! That is why Julien and I refrained from taking any risks on the final day. We really wanted to get this win under our belts.”

Andreas Mikkelsen reached the finish but after breaking the suspension on the first day and rolling the car on the second, it was an eventful visit to Mexico: “A tough rally for us. Retiring twice is not exactly what we had in mind. I just made too many mistakes. Thanks to the great job done by my mechanics, I was still able to gain a few kilometres of experience at the Rally Mexico on Sunday, which will allow us to push hard again next year. All in all, we learned an awful lot here – unfortunately we did it the hard way.”

Third overall also marked a career best for both Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt who each surpassed their previous 'bests' of sixth and fifth respectively. “I certainly didn't come here expecting to finish fourth,” said Elfyn, “simply to finish would have been an achievement given how little experience we have on these kinds of stages and how many of the top drivers were caught out! We put in some strong performances on some individual stages and identified a few areas for improvement as the weekend went on. It's all part of the learning curve and we're really looking forward to Portugal."

Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen came back strongly following their earlier disappointment to finish 8th. "It was a real shame that we had the problem on Friday, but that is part of the game sometimes. We would certainly have been fighting for the podium – maybe even the second place as well – but there are still a lot of positives to take from this event,” said Mikko.

Malcolm Wilson added: "It has been a very encouraging weekend for us. Elfyn [Evans] is progressing really well and his fourth place – his best ever finish in the WRC – is thoroughly well deserved. He wasn't drawn into any unnecessary battles and did exactly what was asked of him – all in all a very mature drive from a driver who has the potential to do extremely well in the future. It was also good to see Mikko [Hirvonen] get his spark back. The problem on Friday was a real disappointment for the team, but the way he fought back proves that he has lost none of his ambition or his determination to win.”

It wasn’t a great event for Kris Meeke though, whose Citroen hit a rock on the Power Stage on the final day and failed to finish: “I feel like I have made a huge amount of progress in terms of understanding the Citroën DS3 WRC and the pace to adopt in the stages. It’s very disappointing not to finish the rally. On the Power Stage, I had good pace notes and I was on the right line, but I hit a rock on the inside of a corner. I was first on the road, so I couldn’t avoid it. Not making it to the finish is very frustrating even if there are lot of positives that we can take away from this rally.”

At least his team mate, Mads Østberg got some points: “There are many positives we can take from the rally. We clearly have the speed. We showed that we are able to match the pace of the best crews. Today’s final leg has given us the opportunity to work on preparations for the upcoming events. Apart from one unfortunate corner, it was a very good rally. I’m really pleased to finish the rally with a couple of stage wins.”

Final Results:
1, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, 4h 27m 41.8s
2, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 1m 12.6s
3, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 5m 28.6s
4, Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford, + 6m 49.3s
5, Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ), Ford , + 9m 54.4s
6, Benito Guerra/Borja Rozada (MEX/E), Ford, + 12m 57.6s
7, Chris Atkinson/Stéphane Prévot (AUS/B), Hyundai, + 15m 15.4s
8, Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford, + 17m 06.8s
9, Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën, + 25m 41.6s
10, Yuriy Protasov/Pavlo Cherepin (UA/UA),  Ford, + 28m 18.2s

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