Championship leader Sebastien Ogier topped the times this morning for Volkswagen in the shakedown for Rally Mexico, round three in WRC 2015 and the first event of the year on gravel.
Ogier, who won in Monte Carlo and Sweden, opted for five runs through the 5.55 km test, posting the marker on his penultimate go, a 3 minute 47.6 second time, which left him 2.2s up on Thierry Neuville's Hyundai.
“The shakedown went well, I had a good feeling in the Polo R WRC. But it's clear that Julien [Ingrassia – my co-driver] and I face a great challenge in terms of the track conditions in Mexico [as we will be first on the road on Friday and Saturday]. But you never know what will happen. However, the fans can be sure that we will always do our best,” Ogier said.
“As always Mexico is a highlight for me, the track profile is fantastic. The ceremonial start in Guanajuato is a great experience in particular. Overall, Julien and I aren't under any pressure to pick up points after our two wins in Monte Carlo and Sweden, but my rivals are. That's why I'm totally relaxed heading into the rally.”
Citroen's Kris Meeke came in third in his DS 3 WRC, 0.3s back, and 0.1s up on both Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala and team-mate Mads Ostberg in joint fourth.
“The shakedown has two main purposes: one is that as a driver you want to get used to the conditions in Mexico – after all it's the first gravel rally of the year. The other is to find the optimum tuning for the car,” Latvala explained.
“We tried out different tuning on our Polo to make sure we are prepared for the changeable conditions. The morning's stages pose different challenges for the car than in the afternoon when the entire field has left its mark.
“We will use our insights to work on the tuning for the rally. But first up it is the start in Guanajuato, which is held on asphalt and cobblestones – I'm sure that there will be plenty of Volkswagen fans at this highlight.”
VW II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen rounded out the top six, the only runner to go for six runs, followed by former F1 driver Robert Kubica and Hyundai returnee Dani Sordo.
Sordo, who missed the last event in Sweden after falling off his mountain bike and breaking two ribs, is competing this weekend with shoulder support (see pictures below). The Spaniard's event didn't get off to the best of starts either, after he went off on his fourth pass.
Behind, M-Sport duo Ott Tanak and Elfyn Evans rounded out the top ten, separated by only 0.1s, with Hayden Paddon eleventh and competing in the third Hyundai i20 WRC.
Rally Mexico now officially begins this evening, with the ceremonial start and two short super special stages, the 1.01 km Street Stage Guanajuato (SS1) and the 4.60 km Super Special 1 (SS2).
The action then continues on Friday with eight stages on the bill and a total competitive distance of 145.13 km. SS3, Los Mexicanos 1, is scheduled to start at 09.02 hours local time [15.02 hours UK time]. Full itinerary for event available - HERE
2015 Rally Mexico: Shakedown times (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 3m 47.6s
2. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 3m 49.8s
3. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 3m 50.1s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 3m 50.2s
= Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 3m 50.2s
6. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC 3m 50.3s
7. Robert Kubica
RK WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3m 50.6s
8. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 3m 52.6s
9. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3m 54.0s
10. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3m 54.1s
11. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC 3m 56.0s
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial