Rally Mexico, saturday: Ogier clinches victory in Mexico
Tänak was left to rue what could have been
In a change to the event schedule, Rally Guanajuato Mexico will now finish on Saturday evening (14 March) in the face of fast-changing travel restrictions connected with the global COVID-19 virus outbreak.
Morning: Ogier moves clear in Mexico
Sébastian Ogier consolidated his position in the lead of Rally Guanajuato México by almost tripling his advantage on Saturday’s morning loop.
The Frenchman, driving a Toyota Yaris, claimed another stage win on the opening Guanajuatito speed test and steered clear of drama to round out the loop with a 28.3sec over M-Sport Ford driver Teemu Suninen.
"I took it easy, especially at the beginning. There were a lot of rocks on the line and I didn’t want to get a puncture," he said.
Suninen was under pressure from a flying Ott Tänak. The reigning world champion delivered a trio of rapid stage times and, as the crews arrived back at the mid-leg service in León, had managed to slash the deficit to just 6.6sec..
Elfyn Evans started the day in third, but dropped behind Tänak after the opening stage and trailed the Hyundai man by 9.4sec at service. His efforts weren’t helped when electrical problems on a liaison section saw Thierry Neuville drop down the running order, leaving the Welshman with a less than ideal road position.
Kalle Rovanperä rounded out the top five, 38.1sec behind his Yaris teammate. The young Finn was forced to open the road after Gus Greensmith hit trouble, but did his best to make the most of the situation. Greensmith hemorrhaged over ten minutes in the Alfaro stage when his Fiesta’s engine cut out. With the help of some mid-stage repairs, he and co-driver Elliott Edmondson were able to get back underway.
In WRC 2, Pontus Tidemand maintained a healthy 56.9sec lead over i20 pilot Nikolay Gryazin, whilst Marco Bulacia continued to build on his lead in WRC 3.
Ogier clinches victory in Mexico
Sébastien Ogier delivered a well-measured drive throughout Saturday’s stages to confirm victory at a shortened Rally Guanajuato México.
Rally organisers, with the support of the FIA, teams and WRC Promoter, announced their decision to shorten the event schedule in the face of fast-changing travel restrictions connected with the global COVID-19 virus outbreak, bringing the event to an end after the Rock & Rally León blast on Saturday night.
After snatching the lead during Friday morning’s Ortega speed test, the Frenchman kept his Toyota Yaris on the road in sizzling hot conditions. Whilst his rivals hit trouble, Ogier was level-headed and ended the event with a 27.8sec advantage over Hyundai i20 driver Ott Tänak. In doing so, he added a sixth Mexico triumph to his record and his first for the Toyota Gazoo Racing team.
“A victory is a victory of course, but this one feels different from any other. I want to thank my team - they have done a fantastic job,” Ogier told WRC+ at the finish.
Tänak was left to rue what could have been. Had it not been for rear suspension damage, caused by a minor excursion on Friday morning, he could have been in with a shot of the win. The Estonian delivered an impressive comeback drive to leapfrog Teemu Suninen in the Derramadero stage on Saturday afternoon.
Suninen was 10.1sec further back and just glad to finish on the podium, picking up valuable championship points after a difficult weekend for the M-Sport Ford team. His teammate Esapekka Lappi retired in dramatic fashion when his Fiesta became engulfed in flames on SS7.
“Actually, it’s more than I hoped for at this rally. We were able to have a consistent pace and we stayed away from the problems. At the end, we lost one brake which basically stopped the fight but that’s rallying. Even without those issues, I don’t think I would have beaten Ott," he said.
Elfyn Evans was fourth, 35.5sec adrift of the podium finishers in another Yaris. The Rally Sweden winner was unable to match the pace of the leaders throughout the weekend and he struggled with road cleaning duties on Friday. He was 1min07.1sec ahead of teammate Kalle Rovanperä, who gained more valuable experience on his gravel debut in a Toyota.
Thierry Neuville had a mixed weekend. Despite mechanical issues forcing him out of action on Friday, he returned to action on Saturday and claimed five impressive stage victories in his i20.
Pontus Tidemand rounded out the top six, taking the spoils in WRC 2 by 1min57.7sec from Russian hotshot Nikolay Gryazin. WRC 3 victor Marco Bulacia was another 1min10.5sec behind, rounding out the weekend with a huge 4min11.1sec lead over Chilean pilot Emilio Fernández.
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