Loeb "curious" ahead of WRC return
Decorated world champion is eager to know how he'll fare in Mexico
Friday 9 March: Meeke pulls clear
Juho Hänninen led in a Toyota Yaris after two stages in Mexico City on Thursday night, but Kris Meeke was the man to beat on Friday when the action shifted to gravel roads in the mountains near León.
The Briton led in his Citroën C3 by 20.9sec from Sébastien Ogier, capitalising on a low start position that ensured he enjoyed cleaner and faster roads than his rivals. Overheating engines were a concern for almost every driver.
Hyundai trio Hayden Paddon, Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville held third, fourth and fifth in their i20 Coupes but all three were stricken by a severe misfire in the final stage. Neuville ended third, 35.8sec behind Ogier. Paddon ceded almost 1min 45sec to drop to seventh while Sordo dropped several minutes to plunge down the order.
Hänninen ended the leg fourth, 30.6sec behind Neuville. Ott Tänak was fifth at the wheel of an overheating Ford Fiesta with Stéphane Lefebvre sixth, less than 10 seconds ahead of Paddon. Championship leader Jari-Matti Latvala was eighth, as centre differential problems and brake issues added to engine woes.
Saturday 10 March: Meeke closes on win
Meeke strengthened his lead over Ogier to 30.9sec. Meeke won just one of the nine stages but it was a decisive victory. While Meeke carried out a planned attack on the day's fifth stage to perfection, Ogier spun and a deficit of just over 20sec became almost twice that. After pirouetting at a hairpin bend, he signalled his challenge was over.
Ogier won two tests and ended 39.6sec clear of Neuville, who also won a stage. Tänak was fourth, struggling for confidence in his car’s set-up but ahead of a frustrated Paddon. Latvala overhauled Toyota team-mate Hänninen for sixth in the penultimate stage. Stéphane Lefebvre crashed his C3 out of sixth.
Sunday 11 March: Meeke's escape to victory
A fourth career win seemed assured when Meeke carried a near-40sec lead over Ogier into the final Power Stage. But just 750 metres from the end of the four-day event, a mistake plunged his Citroën C3 through a hedge and into a car park.
A disoriented Meeke drove around parked vehicles urgently searching for a way back onto the road. He eventually spied a hole in the hedge, regained the track and limped to the finish with a puncture and fan safety tape trailing from his car.
The clocks showed the Northern Irishman had won by 13.8sec, ending a miserable start to the season for Meeke and his Citroën team. Second place for Ogier moved him into the lead of the drivers' championship.
Neuville sealed third, a further 45.9sec behind, and also gained maximum bonus points for winning the Power Stage. Tänak was fourth more than a minute clear of Paddon. Latvala and Hänninen finished sixth and seventh.