Saturday, 7 March 2015

Rally - WRC in Mexico

Despite all his misgivings and pre-event public protestations about running first on the road in Mexico, there was no one to touch Sebastien Ogier: “Coming into the rally, I never would have thought that we would be leading this evening,” he said, “This is definitely partly down to our clever tyre selection this morning. And we took a lot of risks, particularly on the 45-kilometre ‘El Chocolate’, on which we twice produced an almost perfect run. We obviously also benefitted from our rivals retiring – sometimes rather spectacularly, but thankfully nobody was seriously injured.”

So at the end of the first full day of Rally Mexico, Ogier had a 13 second lead over his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala who said: “I am happy with second place at the moment, particularly when you see just how quickly it can all be over at this rally. This morning, my tyre selection was not ideal, and I did not cope well. The afternoon was better, although the high temperatures really put the car to the test on the long ‘El Chocolate’ stage.”

Sadly, star of the previous round, Thierry Neuville is out. He was holding second place when his Hyundai hooked a ditch and tipped the car into a roll down a banking. Afterwards he said: “It is a sad end to what has been a very positive day of rally for me, Nicolas and the team. I had spin in SS4 which lost about ten seconds but then won the following Las Minas stage. The afternoon loop started well but towards the end of the repeat El Chocolate stage, I had a puncture and lost control of the car. We rolled and a hole in the radiator prevented us from continuing.” 

At least he got a bit further than Kris Meeke. The Brit was out on the fourth stage: “I had adopted a safe rhythm on the morning’s first stage,” said Kris, “I was pleased with my pace and the time had been very good. Unfortunately, I made a mistake on SS4. I had too much speed coming into a corner and we went off. It wasn’t a pace note error, I just misjudged the speed at which to take the bend.” 

Worse befell M-Sport’s Ott Tanak and Raigo Molder. They rolled their Fiesta off the road in the third stage – into a reservoir. The car quickly sank out of sight, but the boys swam to safety and the car was recovered late on Friday afternoon.

“It was a difficult experience for us,” said Tanak. “I braked into a compression and damaged the front-right suspension. We couldn’t steer the car around the next left-hand corner and went off. The drop was so steep that we rolled into the water. Luckily the car landed on its wheels, but the water was so deep that the car sank really fast. I also had a problem with my intercom wire because it didn’t come loose and was dragging me into the water. It was not a nice moment to have.” 

All this drama has helped Elfyn Evans: "This is an extremely difficult event and as we saw from all of the drama today, it is something of an achievement just being here at the end of the day! It's so important to build the confidence and get through the first day here.” 

Leaderboard after 10 (of 22) stages:

1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:45:03.0
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +13.5
3. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +29.5
4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +45.2
5. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:03.9
6. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:40.5
7. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:03.5
8. Yurii Protasov / Pavlo Cherepin (Ford Fiesta RRC) +4:57.7
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Matthieu Baumel (Ford Fiesta RRC) +5:15.2
10. Nicolas Fuchs / Fernando Musano (Ford Fiesta R5) +7:58.7…

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