Friday | 04 Mar 2016

SS4: Latvala sets pace in Mexico

Jari-Matti Latvala took advantage of a beneficial road position to take the lead of Rally Guanajuato Mexico in Friday morning’s opening stage.

Stage info: SS4

El Chocolate 1, 54.21km
El Chocolate marks the high point of the WRC season as cars top 2743 metres. It begins with a new 16.7km section, initially on wide roads before narrowing as it climbs through a sequence of hairpins on a bumpy surface. Once it joins familiar territory the road is fast and wide with plenty of long, enticing corners, except for a tricky 3km section which demands care.

The Finn, eighth in the start order, profited from roads swept clear of loose gravel by those ahead, to win the stage in his Volkswagen Polo R by a massive 22.1sec from Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20.

“The conditions weren’t easy, quite slippery. I didn’t know how I was driving but I have an advantage with the road position, that’s clear to see,” said Latvala, who led team-mate and road opener Sebastien Ogier by 19.0sec in the overall standings.

Ogier suffered more than anyone in the loose gravel. “I did what I could, but from first on the road I had no grip. With hard tyres it would have been even worse,” said the third-fastest Frenchman who opted for Michelin’s soft compound rubber.

Andreas Mikkelsen was fourth, almost 40sec down on Latvala’s pace. The Norwegian admitted to a couple of mistakes in his Polo R but was still nearly 10sec clear of Hayden Paddon’s i20.

Mads Østberg completed the top six, more than a minute slower than Latvala, but said his choice of hard tyres was ‘a disaster’. Team-mate Eric Camilli lost more than five minutes after changing a rear left puncture.

In worse trouble was Thierry Neuville (below) who spun into a bank over a crest and the impact broke his i20’s suspension, sidelining him for the day.

Head to WRC+ to see the latest onboard and video reports from Rally Guanajuato Mexico

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