Citroen's Sebastien Ogier saw his Rally Mexico lead cut slightly on the Super Specials this evening.
Ogier was second to Loeb in both runs through the short 2.21 km test and he will now face another day running first on the road as he looks to try and hold off his team-mate and take the very first win with the new DS3 WRC. Ogier is under no illusions about the size of the task ahead of him, but is adamant he will keep fighting.
He will have the chance to keep pushing too after he escaped unpunished following a stewards meeting at the end of the day, which was convened to look into what happened on Friday, when he went the wrong way into service post-SS5.
“There are still three stages and around sixty kilometres left tomorrow,” he stated. “We are well placed even if our lead's not very big, and we will really go for it to hang onto our first place.”
Loeb is equally up for it and remains a big threat, despite that 50-second time penalty after he was late starting SS15 due to a gearbox issue [see separate story – click here
]: “I don't want to be second tomorrow,” said the seven-time World Rally champion. “It is difficult to say at the moment [how much I will push for the victory]. The difference is not too much. We have to try for sure.”
So will Citroen now enforce team orders?
Citroen team boss Olivier Quesnel is giving little away: “The car is really new and there are new regulations and a new engine,” he replied when asked that exact question at the end of the second day. "This afternoon we had some problems precisely because the car is new. We need to have the cars there at the end. Both Sebs understand this. That is enough. I don't have to say any more.”
Meanwhile, Ford's Mikko Hirvonen is a distant third, more than a minute back and somewhat frustrated he hasn't been able to go faster: “Third is a good position, but I was a little disappointed with my speed. I thought the advantage of my start position would allow me to take back more time this morning,” he explained.
“I pushed hard, but on a few occasions I slid wide into the gravel on the edge of the road where the big rocks were lying in wait. That wasn't the place to be and I didn't want to take those risks.
“The sensible option now is to avoid the risk of punctures, and keep an eye on what is happening to the guys ahead. I feel in a safe position and I need to keep it. If I'm still third going into the Power Stage tomorrow, then I hope to push and take maximum bonus points. I enjoy the roads that will be used for that.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, who is fourth in the sister Ford Abu Dhabi WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC, echoed those sentiments and after that puncture on Friday is another minute down the road: “The roads didn't clean as much as yesterday, so our start position didn't give the advantage we hoped,” he continued. “The time gap to the drivers ahead is too big for me to think about chasing, so I'm going to concentrate on keeping neat, tidy lines and push hard for bonus points on the Power Stage. The roads for that have already been used so they should be clean.
“I came here to fight for the podium but I have to think of the bigger picture and it's only round two of the championship.”
Petter Solberg completes the top five having hauled himself back into contention after mechanical woes cost him around 7 minutes in SS6 on Friday. 'Hollywood' set four fastest stage times today, despite a problem with the handbrake and a broken gearlever on the second loop. He also picked up a penalty for starting SS17 late when his car failed to start due to a fuel pressure problem.
Petter remains positive though: “It's going really well. The speed is absolutely there and I'm very happy with our performance today. I was aiming for fifth and that's where we are now. I have no strategy for tomorrow, other than to go fast and win stages. Anything is possible.”
Of the rest, M-Sport Stobart's Mads Ostberg and Henning Solberg are sixth and seventh respectively, the latter having had a tough day due to issues with the power steering.
“For sure, today has been a nightmare – my arms ache and I am so tired. The power steering problems have made things very hard, I am strong but I am not that strong,” Henning noted. “The second stage this afternoon [SS16] was very hard to get through – it is the most technical stage of the rally with lots of hairpins and without power steering it was a big, big challenge.
“Then on the last stage, everything was going well – the split times were looking good and close to [Sebastien] Ogier but then the brake pipe went. My hands are blistered but I am still here - and I'm still smiling - so it is all OK.”
SWRC protagonists Nasser Al-Attiyah, Martin Prokop and Juho Hanninen round out the top ten, ahead of SupeRally runners Ken Block and Federico Villagra, the former forced out again this afternoon in his Monster WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC after he damaged his front suspension. Currently it looks like he should be able to rejoin the fold again on Sunday.
In terms of retirements, the second leg claimed three big scalps with Dennis Kuipers crashing out in the first test of the day, while mechanical problems sidelined both Matt Wilson and returnee Evgeny Novikov. All three will not be able to SupeRally.
“In a right-left combination the car clipped a left bend, we rolled into a ditch and we ended up on our side,” Kuipers recalled. “Until the crash the rally was going really well. I felt at ease in the car and I put in some good stage times. Although I think the exit is disappointing, the seventh position after the first day gives me confidence for Portugal.”
Wilson was similarly downbeat: “It's just not been my weekend. Everything was going so well for us on Friday – we'd worked our way up to fourth and I was really happy with the car set-up. Then we had electrical problems on Stage 7. I was gutted but the team worked throughout the night to try and get the car back on the road for today. Then on the way to the first stage the engine kept cutting out and we knew there was nothing else that could be done. It's so disappointing but I'd really like to thank all the team for their efforts to try and get us back in the rally.”
The action now concludes on Sunday with 62 competitive kilometres on the bill - and three separate stages, including the Guanajuato Power Stage. SS20, the 29.13 kilometre-run through Guanajuatito, begins at 08.28 hours local time [14.28 hours UK time]. The Power Stage (SS23) starts at 11.06 hours local time [17.06 hours UK time].Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 19 / Day 2 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 3hours 12mins 52.6secs
2. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 10.5secs
3. Mikko Hirvonen
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 30.4secs
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 43.8secs
5. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +06mins 51.8secs
6. Mads Ostberg
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +08mins 09.8secs
7. Henning Solberg
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +08mins 41.6secs
8. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Ford Fiesta S2000 +10mins 53.9secs
9. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta S2000 +11mins 32.5secs
10. Juho Hanninen
Skoda Fabia S2000 +12mins 02.6secs
11. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +43mins 09.8secs
12. Federico Villagra
Munchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +45mins 17.7secs
# assumes will re-start under SupeRally on day 3SWRC standings after Stage 19 / Day 2 (Top 3):
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Ford Fiesta S2000 3hours 23mins 46.5secs
2. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 38.6secs
3. Juho Hanninen
Skoda Fabia S2000 +01mins 08.7secs
SS1. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Electrical problem
SS2. Federico Villagra
Munchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Lost a wheel
SS7. Matthew Wilson
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC Electrical problem
SS8. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Electrical problem
SS10/SS11. Matthew Wilson
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC Mechanical
SS11. Dennis Kuipers
FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC Crashed
SS11. Ott Tanak
Ford Fiesta S2000 Crashed
SS12/13. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC Oil leak
SS16. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Lost a wheel
* denotes re-started under SupeRally.all times unofficial