Friday | 04 Mar 2016

SS6: Latvala stretches early lead in Mexico

Two wins from three Friday morning speed tests enabled Jari-Matti Latvala to build a 21.2sec lead at Rally Guanajuato Mexico as the opening leg reached its midpoint.

Stage info: SS5 / SS6

SS5: Las Minas 1, 15.36km
Identical to last year, Las Minas is fast and flowing after an initial 6.3km of tight and twisty climbing. It starts under the cover of trees and passes a mine shaft before opening out and undulating for the rest of the way. Towards the finish there are plenty of loose rocks on the side of the road which could cause issues if pulled onto the driving line.

SS6: Street Stage León 1, 1.41km
The roads of León’s service park campus host a short and twisty asphalt test aimed at bringing the action to the city’s residents. It follows a revised route from previous years.

After topping the times in the long El Chocolate stage in the mountains above Guanajuato, the Finn added a second win in the following Las Minas test before ending a successful morning with fourth fastest in the short León street stage.

A lower start position on the slippery gravel tracks benefited Latvala, who enjoyed cleaner and faster conditions than his rivals ahead, but he was surprised to hold such a big lead over Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Sébastien Ogier, who opened the roads.

“I didn’t expect to be so much in the lead,” he admitted. “It’s hard to know what speed you’re driving at. Sometimes you feel you can go faster but then you’re too much sideways. This afternoon I expect there will be some cleaning, but not a lot. If I can keep the same rhythm and keep taking time, that would be good.”

Ogier was second in both tests and satisfied with the morning. “I can be happy with where I am now, I should be further from the lead. My target is to keep ahead of the drivers who are just behind me in the start order. The guys further back have quite a big advantage,” said the Frenchman.

Dani Sordo retained third after two top three times in his Hyundai i20, 12.2sec further back. The Spaniard was 10.5sec ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen, who was fastest through the city street test in his Polo R.

Mads Østberg relegated Hayden Paddon in their fight for fifth. Both regretted opting for hard compound Michelin rubber and Kiwi Paddon lost more time when he swiped a wall in Las Minas, damaging his i20’s rear suspension. The gap between them is 7.4sec.

Paddon burned his hand making repairs and received treatment from team doctors on arrival at the León service park.

Ott Tänak kept out of trouble in eighth in his Ford Fiesta RS, with Martin Prokop, Lorenzo Bertelli and WRC 2 leader Nicolas Fuchs completing the leaderboard.

Benito Guerra joined Thierry Neuville on the sidelines when the Mexican damaged his Ford Fiesta RS after a heavy landing over a crest in Las Minas.

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

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