Mexico, saturday: Ogier heads for fifth win
Elfyn Evans fended off Ott Tänak in second place
SS10: Early exit for Lappi
Saturday morning’s opening speed test at Rally Guananjuato Mexico was neutralised after Esapekka Lappi slid off the road close to the finish, leaving his Citroën C3 partially blocking the track.
The Finn slide wide on a left corner 800 metres from the end of the Guanajuatito special stage. The rear of his C3 dropped into a ditch while the front came to rest across the road and could not be moved.
The following Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans managed to squeeze by before organisers red flagged the stage, leaving the remaining competitors to drive slowly to the finish. They will be issued with notional times.
The decision to halt the test could prove a blessing for leader Sébastien Ogier. The Frenchman picked up a front right puncture in his C3 and the red flag may have saved him from a considerable time loss.
“The puncture was a bit earlier but we had a red flag so we had to stop. We drove over some rocks on the road that were pulled on from the cars ahead, I couldn’t avoid them in the line,” Ogier explained.
Kris Meeke was fastest before the stage was curtailed. The Briton was 12.1sec quicker than Evans in his Toyota Yaris to demote the Ford Fiesta driver in the overall standings by 5.8sec.
Ott Tänak was third quickest in his Yaris, a further 7.0sec adrift, but all times and positions reman provisional until the organisers allocate notional times.
Jari-Matti Latvala restarted following last night’s retirement due to alternator problems in his Yaris. He deliberately started the stage 10 minutes late, incurring a 1min 40sec penalty but giving him the advantage of cleaner and faster road conditions in his bid to climb back up the leaderboard.
SS11-12: Mexico’s mad morning
Sébastien Ogier lost and then regained the lead of Rally Guanajuato Mexico during a crazy Saturday morning.
He returned to León’s service park with a 19.2sec advantage over Elfyn Evans, with Ott Tänak a further 21.8sec adrift in third. However, those figures hide a mad morning in the dusty mountains.
The drama began when Esapekka Lappi slid his Citroën C3 into a ditch in the opening Guanajuatito speed test, coming to rest partially blocking the track. Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans squeezed by before organisers curtailed the stage for safety reasons.
Notional times were awarded to those behind who did not tackle the entire stage competitively. The situation was complicated by the fact that Ogier punctured his C3’s front right tyre before the stoppage.
Organisers awarded him a time 22.4sec slower than Meeke to compensate, promoting the Briton into a 1.3sec lead.
Meeke then suffered a flat rear right tyre in the following Otates test. He conceded more than 90sec after electing not to stop, and a further 1min 45sec limping through the next El Brinco test with damaged suspension.
His problems promoted Ogier back to the top of the leaderboard, the Frenchman saying: “It’s not been a troublefree morning because we picked up the puncture first thing. When you do not have another spare, there’s always pressure not to make mistakes.”
Evans trailed Ogier by 4.5sec after the halted stage but could not match the Frenchman’s speed through the next two tests. He ended El Brinco with a strange feeling at the rear of his Ford Fiesta after hitting a stone.
Tänak was in relaxed mood, the Toyota Yaris driver unable to believe he was in a podium place after spending yesterday conceding chunks time opening the road on slippery gravel.
Thierry Neuville took advantage of the carnage to climb to fourth in his Hyundai i20, but the Belgian, still struggling with illness, was far from satisfied.
“I’m not really happy to be honest, I just try to survive at the moment. We have to get the car working properly,” said Neuville, who was 38.5sec adrift of Tänak.
Meeke’s woes left him more than two minutes further back in fifth. WRC 2 leader and home hero Benito Guerra was sixth in a Skoda Fabia, having overhauled long time frontrunner Marco Bulacia. Alberto Heller and Ricardo Trivino were eighth and ninth.
Jari-Matti Latvala was up to 10th in his Yaris after yesterday’s retirement. The Finn was quickest in Otates and El Brinco after deliberately starting late to earn the advantage of cleaner and faster road conditions. His tactics cost him a 1min 40sec penalty.
After SS18: Ogier heads for fifth win
Sébastien Ogier remained on course for a fifth Rally Guanajuato Mexico victory after recovering the lead following a mad morning in the mountains on Saturday.
The Citroën C3 driver ended the penultimate leg with a 27.0sec lead over Elfyn Evans as fierce heat and tough gravel roads continued to take a toll on the FIA World Rally Championship contenders.
Ogier’s overnight advantage was wiped out in a dramatic opening Guanajuatito speed test this morning.
Team-mate Esapekka Lappi slid his C3 into a ditch 800 metres from the finish, coming to rest partially blocking the track. Kris Meeke and Evans squeezed by before organisers curtailed the stage for safety reasons.
Notional times were awarded to those behind who did not tackle the entire test competitively. The situation was muddled as Ogier punctured his front right tyre before the stoppage.
Organisers awarded him a time 22.4sec slower than Meeke to compensate, promoting the Briton into a 1.3sec lead in his Toyota Yaris.
Meeke then suffered a flat tyre in the following Otates stage. He conceded more than 90sec after electing not to stop, and a further 1min 45sec limping through the next El Brinco test with damaged suspension.
Ogier was left with a 19.2sec lead over Evans’ Ford Fiesta and widened the gap this afternoon, despite a late scare when he hit the barriers at León’s race circuit.
“It wasn’t a smooth day. First I had a puncture and then it was a long day with hot temperatures. I finished the day with a small issue with the differential and the car was hardly driveable in the final stage,” he said.
Evans fended off championship leader Ott Tänak by 2.2sec. He was more than 20sec to the good this morning, but the Estonian closed with two stage wins to set up a thrilling final day.
Thierry Neuville was a lonely fourth in his Hyundai i20. The Belgian struggled for speed and spent much of the afternoon tinkering with his car’s set-up in the hope of finding a solution.
Meeke was more than two minutes adrift in fifth, adding to his woes when he made a similar mistake to Ogier and conceded 45sec. The Ulsterman then tackled the final stage with his car jammed in second gear.
He was more than seven minutes clear of WRC 2 leader Benito Guerra, with fellow support category driver Marco Bulacia in seventh.
Jari-Matti Latvala recovered to eighth after playing a tactical card following yesterday’s retirement. He deliberately incurred a time penalty to start the stages further down the order with the advantage of cleaner and faster conditions. It paid off as he won two tests.
Ricardo Trivino and Dani Sordo completed the leaderboard.
Sunday’s finale comprises three tests covering 60.17km, using many roads already driven. It ends with the Wolf Power Stage at Las Minas, which offers bonus points to the fastest five drivers.
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