This is a classic Mexican stage and a tough way to start the afternoon. 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 won his third stage out of four today when the Volkswagen Motorsport pilot was quickest on the second pass through Ibarrilla.
He was 8.0sec ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, extending his lead to 1min 21.4sec over Mikko Hirvonen.
“That was really good fun,” said the French Polo R driver. “The stage was beautiful and clean. There were no rocks and I just enjoyed the driving.”
Latvala continued to focus on testing, the ever self-critical Finn admitting: “The one area where I need to improve is my braking. Sometimes I brake far too late and sometimes far too early.”
Hirvonen claimed third, 13.0sec behind Ogier and the Citroen DS3 driver was honest about his ambitions. “I tried to be careful and keep my solid second place. Ogier has been so fast here that I haven’t been able to match his pace and he has such a big lead that I just want to hold position,” he said.
There was a scare for third-placed Thierry Neuville, who was quick to leave the finish line. “We have an issue with the engine temperature. I had to drop the boost,” said the Ford Fiesta RS pilot, who was eighth and almost 30sec behind Ogier.
Chris Atkinson delivered his best performance of the weekend to finish fourth and that was sufficient to promote him to seventh overall, ahead of Benito Guerra.
Nasser Al-Attiyah remains fifth on the leaderboard but the Qatari counted himself fortunate to escape a big moment. “The car tried to change direction in sixth gear. We were very lucky,” he said.
Michal Kosciuszko reached the finish with a light flashing on the dashboard of his Mini John Cooper Works advising of high water temperature. “There’s a strange noise as well – I hope it’s not the engine,” said the Pole.