Andreas Mikkelsen took the lead of Rally Guanajuato Mexico after winning Friday morning’s incident-filled opening speed test.
Stage info: SS2
El Chocolate 1, 31.57km
El Chocolate’s roads are initially wide before narrowing as the stage climbs steeply through a sequence of hairpins on a bumpy surface. It becomes tighter still as it hugs the mountainside before another series of uphill hairpins after 16km. It plunges back downhill and then climbs again to a high point of 2660 metres. There are big cuts for the brave through long, enticing corners and tricky small bridges to negotiate.
The Norwegian, lying second after last night’s street stage in Guanajuato, was fastest through El Chocolate by 2.4sec in his Hyundai i20 to lead Sébastien Ogier by 2.9sec.
“It was very hard to know how much to push. If you push too hard you go outside the lines, so I tried to stay in them,” he said.
Ogier was surprised with second fastest. “It felt terrible and I struggled, the grip is very low. I’m not comfortable in the car,” said the Citroën C3 pilot.
Dani Sordo, starting his first rally of the season was third quickest. The Spaniard was two-tenths slower than Ogier to move into third overall, 4.0sec adrift of his i20 team-mate.
Britons Kris Meeke, driving a Toyota Yaris, and Elfyn Evans were next up. Before Evans could say anything at the finish, something inside the car grabbed his attention and the Ford Fiesta driver departed quickly. Both were more than 8sec slower than Mikkelsen.
Jari-Matti Latvala completed the top six, the Finn 16.7sec behind Mikkelsen and his Yaris sporting front left damage. “We hit something. Starting far down the order is cleaner, but the problem is there are more rocks on the road. Everything is okay, no problem with the car,” he explained.
Road opener Ott Tänak endured the worst of the conditions in his Yaris, clearing a line through the slippery gravel to leave more grip for those behind. The Estonian was 21.4sec slower than Mikkelsen in eighth.
Thierry Neuville dropped almost 45sec after driving much of the stage with a rear left puncture. “It happened about 5km in. We nearly went off as I tried to avoid some small stones which Tänak put on the road. We drove over them, we couldn’t avoid them,” he said.
In worse trouble was Teemu Suninen. The Finn’s Fiesta was stopped halfway across the road after going off 13.5km into the test. There was heavy damage to the front right suspension and his day was already over.