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.”