In Petter Solberg's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the Ford World Rally Team man looks back on Rally Mexico, where he recovered to claim another podium in his Fiesta RS WRC, despite losing over 80 seconds early on the first day with two punctures...
I was very happy with my podium in Mexico. However at the same time, I was also gutted for my Ford team-mate, Jari-Matti [Latvala]. It was really unfortunate that he went out so late on, and that was not good for the team. But on the plus side, we showed that both works Fords will be able to really give Citroen a battle this season and that is very encouraging.
The event started brilliantly for me and after winning the qualifying stage and setting the top time in the Guanajuato Street Stage, I felt great on Thursday evening. It was my intention to be fastest in qualifying and I was very pleased that I managed to pull that one off. It also boosts your confidence to be fastest and it is good starting the event knowing that you are able to win and be so quick.
On Friday, however, two punctures in the first two stages was a real blow. Looking at it now, I think I probably did push a bit too hard. We saw over the rest of the event how fantastic the car was and how good the pace was, so I didn't need to attack quite so much. But you live and learn.
The punctures in SS2 and SS3 cost me around 80 seconds and dropped me outside the top-ten overall. But despite that I still felt I could get a podium. It was still early in the rally and we all know anything can happen in this sport. It was important to concentrate on the job and stay positive as there is always a possibility.
We set some good times afterwards – despite another puncture on the Saturday and some minor brake issues – and by the end of the event I had posted twelve top-three times and taken three stage wins. The Fiesta RS WRC was fantastic.
I was extremely happy with it and to achieve this on my first gravel event with the car was just unbelievable. The Fiesta is extremely competitive on the loose and I am absolutely convinced we can do very well during the rest of the season.
It was nice for me to take the Power Stage win at the end as well. Scoring is always important, but there is something a bit magical about the Power Stage. It is at the back of your mind during the event and then to actually pull it off and set the best time in it is just great.
It was a good way for me to finish Rally Mexico and again I enjoyed the event, although I must admit I actually preferred the format in 2011 to 2012. Sorry!
We also had a problem with a few spectators, who took it upon themselves to place rocks on the road and in one stage on Friday a rock was thrown at Thierry Neuville's DS3. I don't want to dwell on this too much, but it is not good. The organisers had to cancel one stage because of this, and that's a real shame. It didn't spoil the event, although such stupidity does beggar belief.
We go on to Portugal next at the end of this month and I am looking forward to another event on gravel.
I have a lot more experience with the car now on the loose and with getting the set-up to my liking, so that should really help.
Rally de Portugal is a great event and everything about it is good. The atmosphere is fantastic and there are always loads of spectators out on the stages. I enjoy the stages in the Algarve and I like the format they have now.
We will have a test before the event, but I can't say too much about it... Needless to say though, it should help for the fourth round in the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship. I've had some good points finishes on the Faro-based round in recent years and finished second back in 2007, but I'm going there aiming for the win this time.
Until next time, Petter Solberg
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