This is a classic Mexican stage and a tough way to start the second leg. It’s on wide roads and is fast and flowing. The test climbs to 2599 metres at 21km, before plunging downhill to the finish. There are several drainage ditches in the first 3km ready to trap the unwary, and plenty of loose slippery gravel.
How the action unfolded:
Sebastien Ogier began Saturday’s leg of Rally Mexico in dominating fashion, setting a fastest time through the opening stage and extending his rally lead to more than 40 seconds.
The Polo R driver made the most of his start position of 13th on the road to complete the test 8.4sec quicker than his closest rival, Mads Ostberg.
“It’s a good time, but to be honest the feeling wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t easy to find a good rhythm,” Ogier reflected. “But when I saw the time I thought I shouldn’t try to push more. I don’t want to take any risks.”
Mads Ostberg was second fastest in his Ford Fiesta RS to extend his advantage over second-placed Mikko Hirvonen in the overall classification. But at the finish control there were signs that all was not well with the Norwegian’s car. “I have a problem,” said an anxious-looking Ostberg. “I have to go”.
The Qatar M-Sport team later confirmed that Ostberg’s car had a broken clutch slave cylinder.
“He’s got no clutch,” team principal Malcolm Wilson told wrc.com. “It will not affect him once he’s got going, but it will be difficult to get the car off the start line.
“It happened at the start of the stage and he completed the rest of it without any problems. He’ll probably lose more time on the short stage [SS16] because getting off the line on tarmac will be harder.”
Citroen DS3 driver Hirvonen was third fastest through SS14 and ready to capitalise on any problems with the cars ahead. “I had a good drive in there, the car feels really, really good,” he said. “Okay, the cars behind [in the start order] are very fast, but I’ll keep trying.”
Thierry Neuville’s challenge for a podium spot didn’t get off to a good start on Ibarrilla when the Belgian clipped a rock with his Fiesta RS. “It happened in a very tight hairpin,” Neuville explained. “It was on the front right-hand side and now I think the steering is bent a little. Apart from that it was a good run.”
Hirvonen’s Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo was eighth fastest and feeling more upbeat about his performance that he had on Friday – despite driving with a left-hand front puncture for the last 7km. “There were a lot of rocks in the road so it was very easy to puncture,” he said. “Before that it was okay and the car is a little bit better. We made some set-up changes last night.”