Volkswagen driver Sebastien Ogier has re-taken the initiative on Rally Mexico this afternoon, the third round in the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship.
Ogier led overnight after setting the pace in the Guanajuatito Street Stage, but the Frenchman slipped back in SS3 and went into the mid-day service trailing Mads Ostberg by 3.3 seconds. However on the repeat-runs he bounced back, setting the pace in SS6, SS7 and SS8 to build a 17.5 second cushion. He was then second in the short 2.60 kilometre Parque Gto Bicentenario test and with only two runs through the 2.21 km Super Special Stage left to run, looks set to go into the second day with a 20-second plus advantage.
“It has been a really good day,” Ogier stated. “It was very hot though, and not so easy to concentrate.”
Ostberg meanwhile conceded he wasn't happy with his performance on the repeat loop: “We were not perfect on the second pass. I did try to do a good job but we are not where I would like us to be,” stated the Citroen ace.
Jari-Matti Latvala is next up and completes the provisional podium, 17.2 seconds further adrift, having lost out running first on the road: “Overall it's been a pretty good day, not an easy afternoon, there is a clean line but still there is loose gravel. I think the difference between first and second on the road is even bigger in the afternoon than the morning,” said the Finn.
Behind, former F1 winner, Robert Kubica holds fourth in his Fiesta RS WRC, over a minute off P3 and around 30 seconds up on fellow M-Sport runner and team-mate, Elfyn Evans in P5.
“It's good,” said Kubica, “but we have to keep in our minds that we are here for the first time. I will be happy to keep this pace.”
Further back, Hyundai duo Thierry Neuville and Chris Atkinson lie sixth and ninth respectively, sandwiching Martin Prokop and local star, Benito Guerra.
“I am doing very well. I can't do more at the moment than give all the information to the engineers. We are struggling with the altitude,” Neuville explained.
WRC 2 leader, Yuriy Protasov rounds out the top-ten, comfortably ahead of Lorenzo Bertelli, his nearest class rival, after the Italian had to stop and change a puncture in SS7.
In terms of retirements, SS8 claimed both Mikko Hirvonen and Kris Meeke, who had been running third and fourth respectively up to that point. Hirvonen was halted by electrical problems, while Meeke damaged a suspension arm. They join the likes of Andreas Mikkelsen and Ott Tanak on the sidelines. It is not yet known if they will be able to re-start.
Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 9 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1hour 42m 59.4s
2. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 23.1s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 40.3s
4. Robert Kubica
RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 46.8s
5. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 22.2s
6. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +02m 29.3s
7. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03m 26.8s
8. Benito Guerra
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +05m 02.9s
9. Chris Atkinson
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +06m 15.7s
10. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta R5 +07m 14.5s
WRC2 standings after Stage 9 (Top 3):
1. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta R5 1hour 50m 13.9s
2. Lorenzo Bertelli
Ford Fiesta R5 +04m 39.5s
3. Massimiliano Rendina
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X RC2 +11m 03.2s
SS3. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC Went off
SS3. Ott Tanak
Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta R5 Went off
SS3. Quentin Gilbert
Ford Fiesta R5 Retired
SS3. Nicolas Fuchs
Ford Fiesta RRC Suspension
SS3. Augusto Bestard
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X RC2 Retired
SS8. Mikko Hirvonen
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Electrical
SS8. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC Suspension
all times unofficial