This stage was first used in this direction last year. Fast, with plenty of high speed straights, it climbs to 2247 metres. It starts on a smooth, wide road but after 1.7km the surface changes from gravel to cobble stones. The cobbles run for 10kms before the surface reverts to gravel all the way to the finish.
How the action unfolded:
Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala is out of Friday’s competition on Rally Mexico after his car struck a rock just 500 metres into the opening stage.
Reports suggest the rock had been flicked into the middle of the road by another car before Latvala’s Volkswagen Polo R hit it, breaking a front suspension wishbone.
Friday’s opener turned out to be a mixed affair for Volkswagen, with the squad’s second driver Sebastien Ogier taking the stage win to extend his overall lead of the rally. “It was okay, a clean drive, but I’m not quite happy with the car set-up yet,” said Ogier.
Ford Fiesta RS driver Mads Ostberg was second fastest, five seconds slower than Ogier, and also feeling he had some set-up work to do. “The car is over-steering a lot so I’m having to work all the way, I need to make some adjustments, I can’t drive it like this,” he explained.
Thierry Neuville, also in a Fiesta, was third quickest, 2.1sec off Ostberg’s pace. The Belgian said he had adopted a cautious approach after encountering a lot of loose rocks in the road.
Citroen team-leader Mikko Hirvonen was fourth fastest, and frustrated with an opening stage time that was 10.4sec slower than Ogier. “I had a bad start on the tarmac section. I was not driving well and lost a load of time on the cobbles. Okay, we need to catch up now,” he said.
Evgeny Novikov had a terrible start to the day when his Ford Fiesta stopped mid stage with an electrical problem. The Russian dropped more than seven minutes before tweaks to his car’s ECU brought it to life again and he could complete the stage.
Chris Atkinson was seventh fastest and arrived at the stage end with his Citroen DS3 sporting a cracked front bumper and a damaged left-hand front wheel. “We clipped a rock in the inside of a corner. It felt like a puncture but it looks okay,” he explained.
After the two Super Specials on Thursday night, El Cubilete was Benito Guerra’s first ‘proper’ stage in a World Rally Car and the Mexican completed it in the ninth fastest time. “That was fun to drive but running third in the start order there’s still a lot of dirt on the road and it’s tricky to find the lines of the guys ahead and get traction,” said the Citroen DS3 driver. “The second pass should be much better.”
Running first on the road, Michal Kosciuszko reported an intermittent lack of power from his Mini JCW’s engine.