WRC - Mexico, SS3-5: Sordo in charge
Sixth gear roll for Evans
Dani Sordo mastered sweltering mountain roads on Friday morning to lead Rally Guanajuato Mexico at the midpoint of the first full day’s action.
The Spaniard, returning to his Hyundai i20 after missing the previous round in Sweden, reeled off consecutive stage wins in El Chocolate and Ortega to build a 16.6sec lead as competitors returned to León for service.
Road conditions became cleaner with the passage of every car as loose gravel was swept away and Sordo used a low start position to full advantage. He topped the times in El Chocolate by 11.1sec to overhaul Kris Meeke and extended the gap by 1.9sec in Ortega.
“On the second pass conditions will be more equal for everyone and hard for the tyres,” he said. “There won’t be a lot of grip but I don’t know if we can use soft tyres, they will be near their limit. We need to do a good choice.”
Early leader Meeke was the only driver to include two hard compound Michelin tyres in his selection, the others preferring soft rubber all round. Third and fourth fastest times in a Citroën C3 protected second, despite a big escape in Ortega.
“A massive moment over a speed bump. I thought the hard tyres would work but they upset the balance and it disturbed me,” he explained.
Returning nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb was right in the fight in his first gravel WRC round since May 2013. The Frenchman has not been outside the top four times all morning and was 1.3sec behind Meeke in third.
Ott Tänak provided comfort for Toyota Gazoo Racing after a tough morning for the squad. He drove around overheating problems that slowed the Yaris and was fourth, 3.5sec behind Loeb.
Sébastien Ogier made the best of things from second in the start order and was fifth in a Ford Fiesta, despite suspension problems. He was 1.3sec ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen, who felt his Hyundai i20 handled strangely over jumps.
Jari-Matti Latvala was seventh in his misbehaving Yaris, 4.0sec ahead of Teemu Suninen, who was fastest through the short León street stage.
Thierry Neuville had a nightmare morning in his i20. Opening the road meant he endured the worst of the gravel, but he was seventh until dropping more than 20sec in the León test.
‘Engine issue’ was all Neuville would say, the Belgian having also appeared to have injured his left arm after driving part of the test with his door flapping open. He was ninth and Esapekka Lappi completed the leaderboard in another hot and bothered Yaris.
Elfyn Evans was third until his rally went awry in Ortega when he rolled his Fiesta and dropped more than 2min 30sec.
“In sixth gear we hit a bad bump which threw the car into the air. The back end came round and I had no power to pull us out. We hit a bank and went over quite a few times,” he said.