Ogier top in Mexico at end of day one
8 March 2013
Volkswagen Motorsport's Sebastien Ogier will take a 33 second advantage into the second day of Rally Mexico, the third round in the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship.
Ogier took the lead in the super specials on Thursday night and despite losing the position to Mads Ostberg in SS4 on Friday morning, the Frenchman came back and a storming time in SS6 helped him go into the mid-day halt with a 12.9 second buffer.
Ogier then proceeded to consolidate his advantage on the repeat loop and another great time in El Chocolate saw him extend his lead to 29.4 seconds. He eventually finished the leg 33 seconds ahead, having won eight of the 13 tests, including both the 2.21 km Super Specials that concluded the day.
“I am obviously very happy with today's result,” Ogier reflected. “The special stages were not easy, with a lot of stones, loose gravel and little grip. The 30 kilometres on 'El Chocolate', in particular, were extremely demanding. That made it all the more pleasing that we had built up a small cushion by then.
“Everyone in the team is delighted that the Polo R WRC appears also to be quick on gravel. However, we have to bear in mind that there is still a very long way to go at this rally, and the toughest stages are still ahead of us.”
Ostberg meanwhile put in a great performance in his Qatar M-Sport WRT-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC car, winning four stages in total. However the fearsome El Chocolate proved to be his 'Achilles Heel'. On the first pass, as SS6, he was concerned he had picked up a puncture, while on the repeat run, as SS11, he struggled to find a consistent rhythm and as a result lost valuable seconds.
“We are happy to be second of course, but it's been an up-and-down day for sure!” admitted the Crash.net columnist. “We have seen what we can do when everything is working, and it's very disappointing when we lose so much time in just a couple of stages. It's still a big fight and, if we can find a good rhythm tomorrow, we will see what we can do. We are certainly not giving up!”
Mikko Hirvonen lies third, but he has had no answer to Ogier's pace, and lies 42 seconds off the lead and 9 seconds off P2: “I'm not totally happy, because I would like to be nearer to first place,” said the Citroen man. “In theory, we had the best starting position but the roads are so full of potholes and rocks that they are not sweeping clear as much as we had thought they would. I am pleased with the car though, and I'm enjoying the fight. We have completed the longest day of the rally, but we haven't reached the half-way stage yet, so there is still a long way to go.”
Behind, Thierry Neuville looked like he might snatch third in the afternoon, but a spin in SS11 dropped him back: “Today has been a good day. When we felt good the times were good, but we are also being clever and not pushing too hard when the confidence is not 100 per cent. Maybe we slowed down a bit too much on a couple of the stages this afternoon, but we are still here and that is the most important thing,” explained the Belgian. “We definitely have more speed to come, but we don't want to take any big risks on this event. Last year we proved that we have the speed; this year it's all about proving that we have the speed and the consistency.”
Dani Sordo sits in a lonely fifth and he was frustrated not to have been quicker and closer to the pace of Hirvonen in the sister car: “It hasn't been easy returning to this rally in such difficult conditions,” said Sordo, who is already around 2 minutes shy of Mikko. “As there were quite a few retirements among the drivers starting ahead of me, very quickly I found myself running in a more difficult starting position. There were tracks, but the lines weren't clearly marked out and so I ended up having to sweep my own racing line.
“I struggled to find the right pace and adapt to the car. I lacked confidence, and very quickly we were losing a second per kilometre. We'll analyse my performance today so that we can take a different approach to the second leg.”
Next up is Nasser Al-Attiyah in sixth, ahead of Ken Block, Benito Guerra, Martin Prokop and Chris Atkinson in positions 7 through to 10. Atkinson had dropped to 15th after problems in SS3, but he battled his way back up into the points in SS11.
“I had a fairly standard Rally Mexico mishap, when I hit a rock that wasn't there in recce,” the Aussie explained. “The first result was not having to retire at that point. Then the team did a great job in the service park to fix the car and I was able to continue. It's nice to be able to pay them back with a few good times. We'll keep pushing tomorrow to try to keep moving up the standings.”
Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala also hit a rock in SS3, however, he was unable to continue and will now rejoin the fold on Saturday under the Rally 2 regulations.
Of the rest, another driver to suffer misfortune was Evgeny Novikov. Novikov was slowed after a rock pierced the underfloor of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC in SS4 damaging the connectors in the ECU and resulting in a consequential loss of power. He ended the day in 13th overall, one spot behind WRC2 leader, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari.
“This morning was a big disappointment for me, I came to this event full of confidence and ready to get a good result for the team, and also for Ilka [Minor, my co-driver] on what is a very special [100th WRC] event for her,” said Novikov. “But these things happen and there is not a lot we can do about it now. The most important thing for us is to keep motivated and make sure that we make it to the end of the rally.”
Rally Mexico now continues on Saturday with SS14, the 30.04 km Ibarrilla 1 test, starting at 08.58 hours local time [14.58 hours UK time]. Day two includes seven stages in total.
Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 13 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1hour 57mins 46.9secs M
2. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +33.0s M
3. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +42.0s M
4. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 07.1s
5. Dani Sordo Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +2m 40.1s M
6. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3m 24.1s T
7. Ken Block Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m 46.5s
8. Benito Guerra Citroen DS3 WRC +6m 03.4s
9. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6m 25.4s T
10. Chris Atkinson Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +7m 15.1s T
11. Michal Kosciuszko Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC +8m 41.1s
12. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Ford Fiesta RRC +12m 19.7s WRC2
13. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +12m 53.2s M
14. Nicolas Fuchs Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +14m 54.0s WRC2
15. Armin Kremer Subaru Impreza STi +16m 30.7s WRC2
WRC2 standings after Stage 13 (Top 3):
1. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Ford Fiesta RRC 2h 10m 16.6s WRC2
2. Nicolas Fuchs Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +2m 24.3s WRC2
3. Armin Kremer Subaru Impreza STi +4m 01.0s WRC2
SS3. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC Hit a rock M*
SS9. Yuriy Protasov Subaru Impreza WRX STi WRC2*
SS12. Lorenzo Bertelli Subaru Impreza WRX WRC2
*denotes expected to re-start under Rally 2
all times unofficial