Sébastien Ogier lost and then regained the lead of Rally Guanajuato Mexico during a crazy Saturday morning.
Stage info: SS11/12
SS11: Otates 1, 32.27km
Otates climbs and descends throughout, mixing fast open sections with tighter parts. There are many surface changes that blend smooth gravel with bumps and compressions. It borrows almost 6km at the finish from the Lajas de Oro stage, ending in a tight and technical section over crest and dips in a quarry.
SS12: El Brinco 1, 8.13km
There is a new look to El Brinco. Gone is the big jump close to the finish - and replaced by an even bigger leap at the appropriately-named flying finish. The initial part is familiar to all. The start has been moved forward by 1.8km and the wide open, fast roads prove popular with drivers. The stage then turns left off the usual route for almost 2km of narrow man-made roads which have never been driven, ending with a spectacular new purpose-built jump.
He returned to León’s service park with a 19.2sec advantage over Elfyn Evans, with Ott Tänak a further 21.8sec adrift in third. However, those figures hide a mad morning in the dusty mountains.
The drama began when Esapekka Lappi slid his Citroën C3 into a ditch in the opening Guanajuatito speed test, coming to rest partially blocking the track. Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans squeezed by before organisers curtailed the stage for safety reasons.
Notional times were awarded to those behind who did not tackle the entire stage competitively. The situation was complicated by the fact that Ogier punctured his C3’s front right tyre before the stoppage.
Organisers awarded him a time 22.4sec slower than Meeke to compensate, promoting the Briton into a 1.3sec lead.
Meeke then suffered a flat rear right tyre in the following Otates test. 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.
His problems promoted Ogier back to the top of the leaderboard, the Frenchman saying: “It’s not been a troublefree morning because we picked up the puncture first thing. When you do not have another spare, there’s always pressure not to make mistakes.”
Evans trailed Ogier by 4.5sec after the halted stage but could not match the Frenchman’s speed through the next two tests. He ended El Brinco with a strange feeling at the rear of his Ford Fiesta after hitting a stone.
Tänak was in relaxed mood, the Toyota Yaris driver unable to believe he was in a podium place after spending yesterday conceding chunks time opening the road on slippery gravel.
Thierry Neuville took advantage of the carnage to climb to fourth in his Hyundai i20, but the Belgian, still struggling with illness, was far from satisfied.
“I’m not really happy to be honest, I just try to survive at the moment. We have to get the car working properly,” said Neuville, who was 38.5sec adrift of Tänak.
Meeke’s woes left him more than two minutes further back in fifth. WRC 2 leader and home hero Benito Guerra was sixth in a Skoda Fabia, having overhauled long time frontrunner Marco Bulacia. Alberto Heller and Ricardo Trivino were eighth and ninth.
Jari-Matti Latvala was up to 10th in his Yaris after yesterday’s retirement. The Finn was quickest in Otates and El Brinco after deliberately starting late to earn the advantage of cleaner and faster road conditions. His tactics cost him a 1min 40sec penalty.