Saturday | 07 Mar 2015

Surprised Ogier tops Mexico standings

Sébastien Ogier was the shock leader of Rally Guanajuato Mexico on Friday evening after an action-packed day sidelined half the drivers from the headline World Rally Car category.

He overcame the handicap of opening the roads with an inspired tyre choice for his Volkswagen Polo R this morning to claim the advantage. He protected his lead this afternoon to end 13.5sec ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.

Ogier expected to lose time this morning as he swept the gravel roads of slippery stones. But in unusually low temperatures of 7˚C in the mountains near Guanajuato, his decision to fit two soft compound tyres paid dividends.

He smashed his rivals in the 44km El Chocolate stage and held off Thierry Neuville until the salvation of more equal conditions during the afternoon’s repeated tests.

“It was a really great day. I made a clever tyre choice, one of the best we’ve done. It was hard and I had to push from the first metre to the end. That’s always my target but I’m very pleased with this one,” he said.

A further boost came with the high number of retirements. With most likely to return tomorrow under Rally 2 rules at the head of the start order, he will not have to sweep the roads.

Thierry Neuville rolled his Hyundai i20 out of second

Neuville’s challenge ended in the second pass through El Chocolate when he punctured and then rolled after hitting a bank, damaging his Hyundai i20’s radiator.

That promoted Latvala into second. The Finn struggled for confidence this morning, but a mid-leg pep talk from his engineer revitalised him and he won two stages this afternoon.

An early spin caused by gear selection issues left Mads Østberg in ninth. But he charged up the order in Citroen’s DS3 and was 16.0sec behind Latvala in third.

Andreas Mikkelsen battled with Elfyn Evans all day. The Welshman had the best of the morning on roads Mikkelsen had not driven before, but the Norwegian consolidated fourth this afternoon and was 18.7sec ahead in his Polo R.

Dani Sordo was sixth in an i20, the Spaniard overcoming daylong gearbox issues and a puncture to head Martin Prokop’s Fiesta RS, who encountered a cow in the road and survived a lurid incident after a pace note issue. WRC 2 drivers Yurii Protasov, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Nicolas Fuchs completed the top 10.

Ott Tänak retired after rolling his Fiesta RS into a lake in SS3, he and co-driver Raigo Molder lucky to escape as the car sank to the bottom.

Hayden Paddon broke his i20’s right rear suspension after hitting a rock, Kris Meeke snapped his DS 3’s track control arm after swiping a bank and Robert Kubica punctured a tyre and damaging his steering after doing likewise. The steering later broke and he rolled.

Lorenzo Bertelli went off and Benito Guerra broke the rear right suspension on his Fiesta RS.

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