Friday | 06 Mar 2015

SS4: Ogier leads amid Mexico drama

Sébastien Ogier overcame the handicap of opening the roads to lead Rally Guanajuato Mexico after a remarkably dramatic morning.

Stage info: SS3 / SS4

SS3: Los Mexicanos 1, 9.91km
First run in 2012, this stage is fast and wide, but also contains narrower sections to keep drivers alert. The opening 800 metres are covered in a thick layer of dust, before the route climbs and falls again to run alongside a lake. Recently regarded roads at the midpoint mean plenty of loose surface gravel.

SS4: El Chocolate 1, 44.13km
The longest stage of the opening leg is also the rally’s high point, reaching 2781 metres. It contains a mix of everything – climbs, descents, hairpins, fast sections and a remarkably narrow 3km section. Some roads are covered in thick dust and the final 2km are on clay.

He was third in the opening Los Mexicanos stage as Thierry Neuville reduced Ogier’s overnight lead to two-tenths of a second. But the Frenchman was quickest through the following El Chocolate to head the Belgian by 13.3sec.

With the roads expected to become faster as the early starters swept the surface clean of slippery loose gravel, the Volkswagen Polo R pilot’s lead was a surprise.

Drivers struggled to get heat into their tyres as air temperatures struggled to climb above an unusually chilly 7˚C, and Neuville clipped a bank after sliding wide in SS3. He also reported his Hyundai i20 was leaking dust into the cockpit.

Fifth and fourth in the two stages was enough for Jari-Matti Latvala to hold third, 0.8sec behind Neuville. “Very bad driving from me,” admitted the Finn. “It’s incredible how slippery it is. The sun isn’t shining and it’s very cold. I’ve never known it this cold in Mexico.”

Second in El Chocolate promoted Mads Østberg from ninth to fourth after the Norwegian spun in the previous test. “It was the same problem as Sweden with the gearbox. I changed gear, it went into neutral and I went off the road,“ said the DS 3 driver.

Ott Tänak retired early in Los Mexicanos when his Ford Fiesta RS plunged off the road and into a lake. Exact details have still to be confirmed but the Estonian and co-driver Raigo Mõlder are uninjured.

Hayden Paddon stopped 3.1km into El Chocolate after damaging the rear right suspension of his Hyundai i20 while Kris Meeke crashed his DS 3 just 1.5km after the start.

Also out is Robert Kubica. The Pole was fastest at the second split but came to a halt after about 15km. He tried to continue on several occasions but eventually stopped after about 20km, although it is not yet known what his problems were.

Dani Sordo dropped 40sec with gear selection issues at the start of SS4, and his woes increased when his i20’s windscreen fogged up after a watersplash.

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