Thursday | 14 Mar 2019

Mexico Debrief: Part 2

We continue our look back at Rally Guanajuato México, reflecting on the stage and events that proved pivotal, a miraculous save and a frank confession that took us by surprise.

Stage of the rally
The Wolf Power Stage in Mexico has a reputation for producing excitement, as anybody who watched Kris Meeke unexpectedly negotiating a car park in 2017 will know.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver was responsible for raising the excitement levels again this year – but in this case it was all down to the extraordinarily close battle with Sébastien Ogier.

The rally winner won the final speed test by just 0.025sec from Meeke, a difference four times quicker than the blink of an eye!

Turning point
Part of the rally’s mad Saturday morning, the opening run through Otates (SS11) was where Kris Meeke’s victory mission ended and Ogier seized the lead he wouldn’t relinquish.

Meeke began the test with a 1.3sec advantage over Ogier and a repeat of his 2017 victory in mind. But that ambition proved short-lived, when he suffered a flat rear right tyre.

He conceded more than 90sec after electing not to stop, and a further 1min 45sec limping through the next El Brinco test with damaged suspension. By then, Ogier was almost 20 sec ahead of the chasing pack.

Save of the rally
Step forward Jari-Matti Latvala, who completed the event thanks only to his mechanical skills and ingenuity with a water bottle.

In scenes reminiscent of Thierry Neuville’s lager-fuelled rescue in 2014, Latvala found himself close to the finish looking at a car with a broken radiator parked over a puddle of coolant. What followed was very WRC.

He used a pack of mouldable putty to plug the hole in the system and then set about filling the system from his drinking water bottle.

When that wasn’t enough, the Finn made an exhausting 500-metre dash down a steep hillside to refill his bottle from a river, topped up the system and completed the Power Stage to secure eighth place. Bravo.

Surprise of the rally
A never-give-up attitude is something we’ve come to expect from WRC drivers, which is why Thierry Neuville’s comments at the end of Friday’s SS7 raised a few eyebrows.

Completing 2.8sec slower than the man he was chasing, Ott Tänak, Neuville shook his head. “I rarely give up, but I announce today that there is no chance for us to fight. No chance, no chance,” he explained.

Struggling with a heavy cold, Neuville was clearly having an uncomfortable run, but with another 14 stages still to run, it was an unusually bleak prediction from the Belgian.


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