Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier will take a 26.1 second advantage over Mads Ostberg into day two of Rally Mexico on Saturday.
Ogier moved back in front on SS6 this afternoon and then proceeded to build a solid cushion over his Norwegian rival: “The day went much better than expected,” reflected the VW star in the end of day service. “I thought it would be much more difficult due to our early, and thus unfavourable, starting position. The gravel is extremely slippery, plus it is very hot in the cockpit – it is very easy to make mistakes.
“First place is more than we could possibly have expected, and puts us in a great position to win here again. However, I think we will have an exciting battle with Mads Ostberg and my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala from now on. Compliments to the guys in our engine department: we were at almost 2,800 metres above sea level today, and the turbo engine in the Polo R WRC is in a class of its own – just as it was last year.”
“To be honest, I'm really pleased with the start I've made to this rally,” Ostberg added. “The first loop went particularly well. We tried to adapt the set-up for the changing road conditions in the afternoon. It didn't really work, but you have to bear in mind that this is our first gravel rally with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. We still need more experience. But overall, it's been a very encouraging start which augurs well for the rest of the rally!”
Behind the duel at the front, Jari-Matti Latvala holds third, ahead of M-Sport man Elfyn Evans and Hyundai's Thierry Neuville.
“To be honest, third place is a pleasant surprise. Opening the stages today was anything but a stroll in the park. In particular, the 44-kilometre 'El Chocolate' special stage was extremely soft and slippery, so there was a real risk of making a mistake with far-reaching consequences,” Latvala stated. “We tried to drive in a fast and focussed manner, in order to stay in with a good chance for the rest of the rally. That paid dividends.
“We will have a much better starting position tomorrow. Then it will be someone else's turn to sweep the streets, just as we had to today. However, there is still a long way to go to get on that podium. I will definitely also be trying to put some pressure on the guys ahead of me.”
Further back, Martin Prokop is sixth followed by local star, Benito Guerra, Chris Atkinson and Robert Kubica. Kubica had been running fourth overall, but clipped a concrete bollard and rolled his Fiesta RS WRC in SS10, the penultimate test. He is classified ninth overnight under Rally 2.
“I was really happy with our driving and we were on course for a really strong result so it is very disappointing that the day had to finish the way that it did,” said the former F1 pilot. “We weren't taking any big risks. We had found a rhythm that we were comfortable with and the plan was to continue like that. We were learning a lot and improving the pace, so it is really disappointing that the day ended as it did.Of course there is still a long way to go. Our goal is to gain as much knowledge and experience as we can, and that is what we shall continue to do tomorrow.”
Of the rest, WRC2 class leader, Yuriy Protasov completes the top ten, over 4 minutes up on Lorenzo Bertelli – his closest class rival.
Friday's stages claimed a number of victims and in addition to Kubica, three other 'works' drivers also went out. Andreas Mikkelsen was the first scalp, when he went off in SS3. Mikko Hirvonen and Kris Meeke then joined him on the sidelines in SS8. Hirvonen had electrical problems, while Meeke broke the suspension on his Citroen when he hit a rock. All four will re-start under the Rally 2 regulations on Saturday.
The second leg of Rally Mexico is the longest of the event, with seven stages on the bill and a competitive distance of 170.08 kilometres.
SS12, the 30.33 kilometre Ibarrilla 1 test, is due to start at 09.28 hours local time [15.28 hours UK time, i.e. a 6 hour time difference].
Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 11 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1hour 46m 25.3s
2. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 26.1s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 42.5s
4. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 28.7s
5. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +02m 30.2s
6. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03m 31.1s
7. Benito Guerra
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +05m 06.0s
8. Chris Atkinson
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +06m 32.8s
9. Robert Kubica
RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +06m 45.5s
10. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta R5 +07m 39.1s
11. Lorenzo Bertelli
Ford Fiesta R5 +12m 00.7s
12. Mikko Hirvonen
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +15m 20.0s
13. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +15m 33.6s
14. Ricardo Trivino
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X RC2 +18m 31.9s
15. Massimiliano Rendina
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X RC2 +19m 02.4s
WRC2 standings after Stage 11 (Top 3):
1. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta R5 1hour 54m 07.3s
2. Lorenzo Bertelli
Ford Fiesta R5 +04m 21.6s
3. Massimiliano Rendina
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X RC2 +11m 00.4s
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
SS10. Robert Kubica
RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Rolled
* denotes will re-start under Rally 2 on Saturday.
all times unofficial