Dani Sordo bounced back from Friday night’s disappointment at Rally Guanajuato Mexico to claim fastest time in Saturday morning’s opening speed test.
Stage info: SS9
Media Luna 1, 27.42km
A mix of familiar roads from several stages moulded into a new test. The opening 6km are very fast and open, with several washaways and some big corners for the brave. After 12km it becomes narrower and more technical with a couple more washaways leading into a long flat-out straight. It ends with a series of fast twists and turns.
Amid huge confusion, the Spaniard was hit with a 10-minute penalty after a severe engine misfire reduced his Hyundai i20 Coupe to near-walking pace in the final two speed tests at León race circuit. It plunged him from third to 15th.
The issue, which also affected team-mates Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon, was traced to a blocked fuel filter. With the problem resolved, Sordo charged through the Media Luna test 3.2sec faster than Sébastien Ogier’s Ford Fiesta.
“The grip in the fast sections was unbelievable,” he said. “I’m very disappointed about yesterday night, but that’s life.”
The engine overheating problems which affected so many drivers yesterday appeared to be a thing of the past. Cooler air temperatures, with a hint of rain in the mountains, eased concerns and teams changed their engine settings overnight to avoid a repeat of the issues.
Ogier was 0.9sec faster than leader Kris Meeke and admitted the gap should have been bigger.
“I started a bit too carefully. I’m not used to having a line and clean grip! My target is not to go all or nothing. I want to keep the pressure on and have a good rhythm. There is a lot happening here, it’s a tough rally,” he said.
Meeke left the stage finish in a hurry without commenting, onlookers noting a strange smell coming from the brakes, but the Northern Irishman’s lead remained a healthy 20.0sec.
Neuville was fourth, the Belgian also believing the fuel filter problem was resolved, while fifth for Ott Tänak promoted the Estonian to fourth overall. He relegated Juho Hänninen, the Finn happy with his Toyota Yaris but still struggling with illness.
Hayden Paddon climbed to sixth ahead of Stéphane Lefebvre, while life was happier in the Yaris of Jari-Matti Latvala after yesterday’s troubles. The Finn drove on the ‘safe side’ and his only problem was having to avoid two dogs.