Ogier heads Ostberg in Mexico, Latvala out
8 March 2013
Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier continues to head the pack on Rally Mexico following the opening loop this morning.
Ogier, who took the early lead on Thursday after the two short opening super specials, began strongly and was 5 seconds up on Mads Ostberg in SS3, the 21.91 km El Cubilete test – the first 'proper' stage of the event.
However the Frenchman was only third in the next test and with Ostberg fastest, slipped to second overall, 1.4 seconds adrift.
Ogier then lost another 0.5 seconds in SS5, before re-asserting his authority in SS6, when he put in a storming time, 9 seconds faster than Mikko Hirvonen, who was 'best of the rest', while Ostberg was only fourth, 13.7 seconds back.
Following the Street Stage in Leon, and Ogier's third stage win of the day, he now heads back to service in Leon with a 12.9 second buffer.
“It was a good morning,” Ogier told WRC Live after SS7. “I didn't have the best road position [after only qualifying fifth] but still we manage to lead the rally now. We can be happy with that. We have done a good job.
“Mads is going really well though, and is just behind us. We will have to continue to drive well if we want to stay in the lead.”
Ostberg meanwhile hasn't given up although he conceded that he struggled in SS6 because he thought he had a puncture.
“I've been struggling a bit with the set-up, but to be honest the times have not been so bad!" said the Qatar M-Sport WRT driver. "On the last long stage [El Chocolate – SS6] we had quite a good run but I hit a stone towards the end. I was sure I had a puncture, but I think that what I was feeling was just the tyres overheating slightly. I slowed down because of that and lost a bit of time, but we have also set some really good stage times which is for sure a positive thing.
“I think we still have some speed to come and I'm not scared to push. We're still in the fight and looking forward to this afternoon. We'll go back now, refill the drinks bottles, and get back to the battle with Sébastien [Ogier].”
Mikko Hirvonen is next up for Citroen and currently set for the final spot on the podium. Despite having the best road position after topping qualifying, the Finn was generally unable to match Ogier and Ostberg, although he did post two second quickest times and one third – and is only 5.3 seconds off P2.
Behind, Thierry Neuville lies fourth, just 7.9 seconds further back, while Dani Sordo is a more distant fifth – over a minute off the lead and 39.3 seconds off P4.
“We lost 13 seconds on the second stage of the morning [Las Minas 1 – SS4] because I was thinking that I should save my tyres," Neuville remarked. "Obviously that turned out to be the wrong decision because we lost our third position. But we are still in the fight and we can definitely go faster – although I'm not so sure that we should just now!
“There is still a long way to go with a lot that can happen, but we managed to avoid all the stones and I hope we can do the same this afternoon. We were quite clever this morning and I hope that we can continue like this.”
Further back, Nasser Al-Attiyah holds sixth on his first outing with the Qatar WRT, after he was forced to miss Sweden due to illness. Then comes Ken Block, also in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC car, with Benito Guerra, Martin Prokop and Michal Kosciuszko in positions eight through to ten.
A number of runners had problems this morning, most noticeably Jari-Matti Latvala, who hit a rock and damaged a front wishbone right at the start of the opening test. The Finn was forced out but will re-start in his VW Polo R WRC on Saturday under the Rally 2 regulations.
Chris Atkinson and Evgeny Novikov also had issues, but could continue. Atkinson hit a rock in SS3 and had to stop and make repairs before SS4. He was 21 minutes late to the time control as a result and picked up a 3.5 minute time penalty. Novikov in contrast lost even more time, conceding almost 12 minutes in SS3 and SS4.
“In the middle of the first stage of the day [El Cubilete 1 – SS3] we lost the power and had to pull over," Novikov explained. "A stone has come up through the floor and damaged some of the connections in the ECU. We changed it to a spare one and were able to continue, but then one of the connectors came loose on the next stage [Las Minas 1 – SS4] so we had to pull over again.
“It is very disappointing to be at the back of the field. I was looking forward to this rally and wanted to achieve a good result here. Tomorrow we will be one of the first on the road which is also very disappointing. Now we just need to keep the motivation up and make it to the end.”
In WRC2, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari holds top spot in his Ford Fiesta RRC, 1 minute 49.7 seconds up on Armin Kremer. Nicolas Fuchs is third.
Rally Mexico now continues with a repeat-run through this morning's four 'proper' tests, before the day concludes with two runs through the 2.21 km Super Special. SS8, El Cubilete 2, is due to start at 13.33 hours local time [19.33 hours UK time].
Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 7 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1 hour 00mins 04.2secs M
2. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +12.9s M
3. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +18.2s M
4. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +26.1s
5. Dani Sordo Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +1m 05.4s M
6. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 44.1s T
7. Ken Block Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 14.8s
8. Benito Guerra Citroen DS3 WRC +3m 02.3s
9. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3m 11.2s T
10. Michal Kosciuszko Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC +3m 50.8s
11. Chris Atkinson Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +5m 30.3s T
12. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Ford Fiesta RRC +5m 59.0s WRC2
13. Armin Kremer Subaru Impreza STi +7m 48.7s WRC2
14. Nicolas Fuchs Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +7m 57.8s WRC2
15. Ricardo Trivino Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +8m 20.9s WRC2
19. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +12m 20.4s M
WRC2 standings after Stage 7 (Top 3):
1. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Ford Fiesta RRC 1h 06m 03.2s WRC2
2. Armin Kremer Subaru Impreza STi +1m 49.7s WRC2
3. Nicolas Fuchs Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +1m 58.8s WRC2
SS3. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC Hit a rock M*
*denotes expected to re-start under Rally 2
all times unofficial