Volkswagen's Sebastien remains in the lead of Rally Mexico at the end of the first full day of competition.
Following all the drama this morning, Ogier started the repeat loop this afternoon with a 9.6s lead over Thierry Neuville, and he stretched that to 11s with the second best time in SS7. The Frenchman was then second again in SS8, his lead increasing to 12.1s after Neuville picked up a puncture near the end of the test and crashed out.
All the time though, Latvala had been quicker - winning SS7 and SS8 - and Ogier then trailed him again in SS10, losing 1.2 seconds.
Ogier fought back, however, in SS10 - the 4.6km test held at the Leon motor racing circuit – winning it to end the day with a 13.5 second advantage.
“A very good start to the Rally Mexico for Julien [Ingrassia – my co-driver] and me,” said Ogier. “Coming into the rally, I never would have thought that we would be leading this evening [due to the fact we are first on the first]. This is definitely partly down to our clever tyre selection this morning. And we took a lot of risks, particularly on the 45-kilometre 'El Chocolate', on which we twice produced an almost perfect run.
“We obviously also benefitted from our rivals retiring - sometimes rather spectacularly, but thankfully nobody was seriously injured. We have put ourselves in a good position, but still have two days of tough stages ahead of us.”
Meanwhile, Latvala was disappointed to lose 2.6s to Ogier in SS10, but was a lot more comfortable on the repeat runs.
“I lost a bit on this stage [SS10] as we had a bit of a moment on the first left-hand corner,” Latvala noted. “There was gravel there that I didn't expect. We will try to fight tomorrow.”
“I am happy with second place at the moment,” added the Finn back in service, “particularly when you see just how quickly it can all be over at this rally. This morning was surprisingly cold and extremely slippery on the loose gravel. My tyre selection was not ideal, and I did not cope well.
“The afternoon was better, although the high temperatures really put the car to the test on the long 'El Chocolate' stage. We won two stages and closed the gap to our team-mates Sebastien and Julien a little. Let's see what happens now. We have some more tough stages to come.”
Mads Ostberg is next up in third, 16s back. The Norwegian was hampered by gearbox problems in the first test of the day – similar to what handicapped him in Sweden – but posted some good times after, winning SS9 and going second in SS4.
“The morning was difficult due to problems changing gears, but we made progress throughout the day thanks to the work of the entire team,” Ostberg said.
“During the second loop, the DS 3 WRC was perfect. I had to reacclimatise to the driving style needed for gravel and the conditions of Rally Mexico, but the fastest time SS9 shows that we can be competitive.
“Each year, I try to win certain specific stages, ones that I particularly enjoy. Las Minas is one of them. My aim for tomorrow is to make it through the first stage. I have had problems on Ibarilla in the last three years. After that, we'll need to stay focussed.”
Volkswagen Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen holds fourth and he has now pulled away from M-Sport's Elfyn Evans in fifth.
“I took a rather cautious approach to the special stages on the first loop this morning. I did not want to take any risks, as I do not have a great deal of experience here in Mexico. I want to build that up gradually. I was able to use that little bit more experience on the afternoon's second loop, and moved back up towards the podium positions. The Rally Mexico is always very eventful, as today proved. As such, I don't want to do anything silly tomorrow and will continue to play it safe. That might still pay dividends,” remarked Mikkelsen, who had a nightmare on this event twelve months ago.
“This is an extremely difficult event and as we saw from all of the drama today, it is something of an achievement just being here at the end of the day! It's so important to build the confidence and get through the first day here,” Evans added.
“It's been a bit up and down for us. In places I felt that we could have done better, but in others I think we drove well with some good times. Tomorrow is another challenging day, but I hope that we can build on what we did today and deliver some more speed.”
Behind, Dani Sordo rounds out the top six, losing time with gearbox problems this morning and then a puncture this afternoon.
“For me, it's been great to be back with the team here in Mexico and I have had a good day,” said Sordo, who missed Sweden due to an injury. “We have had a few issues but the feeling is good with the car and finishing the first day in the top six is an encouraging start.
“On the first run of El Chocolate, I had some gearbox issues and then later - after the water splash - my windscreen was misty so visibility was poor. I was pleased with the final morning stage, Las Minas 1, and also with setting the third best time in the repeat Los Mexicanos (SS7) stage. There are a lot of positives to take from today; the car feels good and I feel physically fine but there is another tough day ahead of us tomorrow.”
Of the rest, Martin Prokop is seventh ahead of WRC2 runners Yuriy Protasov, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Nicolas Fuchs in positions 8 through to 10, all benefitting from the high rate of attrition, which took care of a number of big names.
Ott Tanak was the first major casualty , when he went off in SS3 – the first proper test of the event – and ended up in a reservoir. It was a terrifying incident for the Estonian, although he will re-start
on Saturday after the team managed to repair his car, despite the fact it had been submerged for almost 10 hours.
SS4 then claimed Kris Meeke, Hayden Paddon and Robert Kubica. Meeke crashed near the start, while Paddon had to stop about 3km in after damaging the suspension on his Hyundai i20. Kubica then also stopped and while he did get going again, he had to park it again about halfway through. All three are expected to rejoin tomorrow.
The repeat loop then took its toll on Neuville – as mentioned – as well as fellow WRC car drivers Lorenzo Bertelli and Benito Guerra Jr.
Rally Mexico now continues on Saturday with another eight stages on the bill, covering 172.37 competitive km.
SS11, the 30.27km Ibarrilla 1 test, is due to start at 09.28 hours local time [15.28 hours UK time]. Full itinerary for event available - HERE
2015 Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 10 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1h 45m 03.0s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0m 13.5s
3. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 29.5s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +0m 45.2s
5. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 03.9s
6. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 40.6s
7. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 03.5s
8. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta RRC +4m 32.4s
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Ford Fiesta RRC +4m 46.9s
10. Nicolas Fuchs
Ford Fiesta R5 +6m 30.8s
11. Jari Ketomaa
Ford Fiesta R5 +7m 04.1s
WRC2 standings after Stage 10 (Top 3):
1. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta RRC 1h 49m 35.4s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Ford Fiesta RRC +0m 14.5s
3. Nicolas Fuchs
Ford Fiesta R5 +1m 58.4s
SS3. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off
SS4. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC Went off
SS4. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC Suspension damage
SS4. Robert Kubica
RK WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Stopped
SS8. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC Rolled
SS8. Lorenzo Bertelli
Ford Fiesta RS WRC Stopped
SS8/9. Benito Guerra Jr.
Ford Fiesta RS WRC Stopped
*denotes will re-start under Rally 2 on Saturday
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial