Rally Mexico Preview 2019

The WRC season continues with Rally Mexico, a very tricky round. Road position will be key for the hopes of those further down the championship order and this could mean that drivers like Kris Meeke, Jari-Matti Latvala and Elfyn Evans could all feature in the top spots at the end of the first day. Last year in particular, Elfyn was going well having been second fastest in stage three before the roll that gave then co-driver Dan concussion, meaning that they’d have to retire on safety grounds.

Kris of course drove well, securing at the time his last podium for Citroen Racing. Jari-Matti was the best placed of all the Toyota drivers, getting eighth place. Of course, they had challenged near the front before problems with the cars had dropped them back.

Kris Meeke scored a good podium last year for Citroen. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Last years winner, Seb Ogier sits third in the championship and is also in a strong position to win for Citroen, although hopefully not like Kris Meeke in 2017, driving through a carpark on the last stage!

Now, here are the key points about Rally Mexico. There are 30km’s less this year, compared to last year’s event. Friday sees 114km’s of competitive stages, with Saturday 138km’s and Sunday around 60km’s.

 

21 timed stages covering a total of 313.87 km.

10% the percentage loss of power for every 1,000 metres above sea level.

2,756 metres – the peak altitude of the rally, located on the Ortega stage.

The stages are run six hours behind GMT.

 

THURSDAY 7 MARCH

10.00am: Shakedown (Llano Grande)

6.00pm: Start day 1 (Leon)

8.08pm: SS 1 – Street Stage GTO (1,14 km)

9.38pm: End of day 1 (Leon)

 

FRIDAY 8 MARCH

9.00am: Start day 2 and service A (Leon – 15 mins)

10.18am: SS 2 – El Chocolate 1 (31,57 km)

11.16am: SS 3 – Ortega 1 (17,28 km)

12.59pm: SS 4 – Street Stage Leon 1 (1,11 km)

1.34pm: Service B (Leon – 40 mins)

3.17pm: SS 5 – El Chocolate 2 (31,57 km)

4.15pm: SS 6 – Ortega 2 (17,28 km)

5.18pm: SS 7 – Las Minas (10,72 km)

6.58pm: SS 8 – V-Power Shell Stage 1 (2,33 km)

7.03pm: SS 9 – V-Power Shell Stage 2 (2,33 km)

8.03pm: Flexi service C (Leon – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 9 MARCH

7.15am: Start day 3 and service D (Leon – 15 mins)

8.23am: SS 10 – Guanajuatito 1 (25,90 km)

10.11am: SS 11 – Otates 1 (32,27 km)

11.08am: SS 12 –  El Brinco 1 (8,13 km)

12.53pm: Service E (Leon – 40 mins)

2.31pm: SS 13 – Guanajuatito 2 (25,90 km)

4.29pm: SS 14 – Otates 2 (32,27 km)

5.38pm: SS 15 – El Brinco 2 (8,13 km)

7.03pm: SS 16 – V-Power Shell Stage 3 (2,33 km)

7.08pm: SS 17 – V-Power Shell Stage 4 (2,33 km)

7.51pm: SS 18 – Street Stage Leon 2 (1,11 km)

8.21pm: Flexi service F (Leon – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 10 MARCH

8.00am: Start day 4 and service G (Leon – 15 mins)

9.03am: SS 19 – Alfaro (24,38 km)

10.11am: SS 20 – Mesa Cuata (25,07 km)

12.18pm: SS 21 – Las Minas Power Stage (10,72 km)

1.53pm: Service H (Leon – 10 mins)

3.00pm: Podium

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“We had two good days of pre-event testing, on roads that were fairly representative of the kind of stages we’ll have to tackle this weekend. We were lucky with the weather during the tests, which was very warm, although obviously not quite as hot as in Mexico. After a tough Rally Sweden, where we weren’t able to express ourselves, I can’t wait to get started and realise our full potential. The stages are beautiful here but you do need to be careful on the afternoon loop, when it’s warmer. The second passes are always hard on the cars, especially as the high altitude means not only reduced horsepower but can also cause issues with cooling.”

Esapekka Lappi

“The tests held in Spain enabled me to feel even more comfortable in my C3 WRC, building on what we achieved at Rally Sweden. I feel increasingly at one with the car. Having said that, I know that my experience of Rally Mexico is very limited. I only have one competitive appearance here, at last year’s rally, in addition to completing recce in 2017. In light of that, a top-five finish would be a good result for me. Our starting order will give us an advantage over the first few crews so it’ll be up to us to make the most of it. You really need to be clean and efficient in your driving on these roads, given that we lose about a hundred or so horsepower due to the high altitude.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

“It was a great feeling for us to win in Sweden, but we quickly changed our focus to Mexico. We flew straight to Spain for two days of gravel testing on the Monday and Tuesday after the rally. We worked on a number of different things, just trying to be as well-prepared as we can be. The whole team has been working hard and I believe we should be competitive in Mexico. As championship leaders, we will have to run first on the road on the Friday. It won’t be easy but we saw in Mexico last year that it is possible to have a good result from this position, so let’s see how it goes.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 03, Rally Mexico 2018 / March 8-11, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I am looking forward to being in Mexico: particularly the warm sun at the end of the Finnish winter! So far, it hasn’t really been the start to the season for me that I would have wanted. If there is one positive from this, however, it is that I will have quite a nice starting position for the first day in Mexico, as the eighth car on the road. I had a good test in Spain last week, using pretty much the same setup that I used to win in Australia, with just a few small tweaks. Most importantly, I am confident that as a team we are totally prepared this year for the altitude and the high temperatures.”

Kris Meeke

“I had two days of testing in the south of Spain last week, which was my first time driving the car on gravel outside of Finland. It was really useful for me and I came away feeling comfortable. Mexico is a place I’ve gone well in the last few years: I won in 2017, and last year I was in the fight for the victory and finished third. Now with a different car I hope to be competing at the sharp end once again. Monte Carlo and Sweden were events with very complicated conditions where it would have been easy to make a mistake. Mexico is usually a lot more consistent, and I’m looking forward to it.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“We have got the 2019 season off to a solid start with two satisfying podium results. It’s early days in the championship but we have shown our pace and potential, as well as identifying areas of improvement. Mexico, as always, will be a different challenge. It’s the first rally of the year with hot temperatures, a real contrast to Monte-Carlo and Sweden, as well as being high up in the mountains. The reduction of oxygen at altitude will mean less horsepower for the engine, while the heat makes life more demanding in the cockpit for the driver and co-driver. It’s a rally where we’ve fought for podiums in the past, so we know what we have to do to be successful.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
07-11 March 2018
Action
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“The difference in conditions from Sweden to Mexico could not be greater! It is one of the warmest rallies of the season, at high altitude and with some long, hard gravel stages. The combination of heat and height makes it a gruelling rally for crews and cars. The altitude reduces the engine power output, which means we are constantly looking for something more from the car. The start of the season has brought some positives for us as a crew, and for the team. We were fighting for second place in Sweden, so we’ll be hoping to feature near the front in Mexico too.”

Dani Sordo

“I am happy to be starting my first WRC event of the season, having followed the opening rallies very closely. The other crews have already warmed themselves up at Monte-Carlo and Sweden, even in the cold conditions. Now it’s time to begin our own season! Carlos and I used Rali Serras de Fafe as a way of preparing ourselves for Mexico, and we had a successful weekend in the Hyundai i20 R5. We will use this experience, as well as Thursday’s shakedown, to get quickly up to speed, as we aim to fight for the podium. Mexico is a tough event but one I enjoy and with incredible support from the fans.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“I’ve always enjoyed Rally Mexico and have had some good results here in the past. I’ve come close to the podium a couple of times, and the aim will be to challenge for the top results again next week. The whole team showed good speed in Sweden, and we want to continue that in Mexico.

“We’ll have a good road position on the first day that we’ll need to make the most of. But this rally isn’t without its challenges. It’s a notoriously demanding event with high temperatures and rough stages. So, we’ll need to be fully focused to deliver the best results.

“We’ll also encounter the highest altitudes of the year, and the thinner air can see performance fall by as much as 20 percent. We’ll need to adapt our driving style to contend with that – being really smooth and not so aggressive behind the wheel – to ensure we’re getting 100 percent of the available performance.”

Photo credit, M-Sport.

Teemu Suninen

“Rally Mexico and Rally Sweden are two totally different events, but it would be nice to continue our strong performance. We drove a one-day test in Spain last week and, although the temperatures aren’t very close to what we’ll see in Mexico, it was a good opportunity to get a feel for the car at high altitude on gravel.

“The feeling was really good, but there is always a little uncertainty going to the events as we don’t know what our rivals have done. There was that same feeling before Sweden, but our pace was good and we had the speed to challenge for the top results.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to challenge with the top guys next week, but we’re all working really hard and team have put a lot of effort into the development of the Fiesta. That hard work showed in Sweden, and I hope it will show in Mexico too.

“I’ll have a later start position, but that’s not always a good thing as there could be a lot of stones dragged onto the line. The key for me will be to drive neatly and have the consistency as well as the speed.”

 

Łukasz Pieniążek (WRC 2 Pro)

“I’m really looking forward to Rally Mexico which will be my first ever event outside Europe. Due to the high temperatures and potentially really demanding conditions, Kamil [Heller, co-driver] and I have been training really hard, and we’re ready for the battle.

“We left Poland on Thursday to give ourselves two days to acclimatise ahead of Monday’s pre-event test. I didn’t find a set-up that was perfectly suited to my driving in Sweden, but we have a few ideas of what we can improve next week. We want to continue the work we started in Sweden – to try a few things and get to know our Fiesta better.

“It’s a great pity that we’ll be the only WRC 2 Pro crew in Mexico, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to fight. Our goal is to be the first R5 crew so we won’t be cruising and we’ll try to go as fast as possible. On the other hand, there will surely be less pressure. Either way it’s still going to be a long and demanding rally, but the longer the stages the better for me.”

 

Summary

Well, we are set for an interesting event, with potentially five or six different winners. We could have a mixed podium with crews from different teams. In fact, this is what happened last year. The weather looks to be very hot and dry over the weekend.

Now you’ll also be able to listen and watch live with WRC+, and there’ll be highlights on Channel 5 as well. Finally, early next week you will be able to read a full review, stage by stage right here.

 

Enjoy the event!

Rally Mexico 2018 Review – Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia conquer the Mexican Gravel

Well, what an amazing rally we were treated to! Here’s the story of how Seb Ogier won, and took the championship lead back from Thierry.

 

On Thursday, last year’s winner Kris topped shakedown with Thierry in his Hyundai also going very well, just a little behind the Northern Irishman, whilst Seb Loeb was getting his bearings back, going ninth fastest on his return to competitive action.

 

The first stage, run that evening, was won by Thierry.

 

Friday morning dawned bright, if a little cool. It would certainly warm up, for sure and not just the temperature, as the fight for the lead started in earnest! Nine stages faced the crews, including the longest of the rally, El Chocolate 31km test and as always, run twice!

 

Stage two saw Kris and Paul take the lead, whilst Thierry tumbled down to ninth as he was opening the road, courtesy of being the championship leader. Dani Sordo also had a great run jumping from eighth to second and Loeb went brilliantly to go third in the stage and move into fourth overall.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
8-11 March 2018
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The following stage would see a big change around though! Kris found the balance of his car tricky and after being third fastest behind Elfyn and stage winner Dani, would fall to second overall, nine and a half seconds behind our new leader, Dani!

 

Stage four would see Elfyn and Dan roll multiple times, after losing control on a jump in sixth gear! The car wasn’t actually that damaged, but they were both taken to have medical checks done and Dan was found to have suffered concussion and they would withdraw from the event. A big shame after moving into third overall. Kris also had a big moment on a jump, but was still second overall, whilst Loeb had moved up to third after the demise of Elfyn and Dan.

 

The short street stage at Leon was won by Teemu in his M-Sport Fiesta, with Andreas and Loeb taking second and third. Thierry suffered from an engine issue in this stage, dropping twenty seconds as a result and dropping two places down to ninth, now more than a minute from his teammate Dani who was still leading.

 

Stage six started the afternoon loop, after the lunchtime service break and Kris fought back with a time four seconds faster than Dani who continued to lead the event, although it was now reduced to twelve seconds. Ott Tanak was faster than Loeb, and took third overall as a result, whilst Thierry moved back up one place after Hyundai fixed the problem with his car during service.

 

The second run of El Chocolate, stage seven, and the nine-time champion took it, and with Kris suffering a spin losing six or seven seconds he also moved into second overall! Further down the order, both Teemu and Esapekka went out of the event after sliding out and Andreas passed Ogier for fifth, after being almost three seconds faster.

 

The following stage saw Loeb and Ott set exactly the same time allowing the Estonian to pass Kris who spun again dropping to fourth and whilst that was happening, Loeb had closed to within eight seconds on the current leader, Dani. Sadly, Jari-Matti, who had been in seventh overall retired with alternator failure after this stage.

 

Stages nine and ten were run at the Autodromo de Leon, and honours were shared by Tanak and Ogier.

 

It had been a very interesting day, with Dani leading throughout and the Citroen duo of Meeke and Loeb being the closest challengers. Championship leader, Thierry was a full two minutes off the lead in seventh place whilst Seb Ogier lay just thirty seconds from the lead, fifth overall.

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers at the end of the day with the top three first.

Dani Sordo, Hyundai

“I have been happy with our pace and rhythm today, particularly on the morning loop when we could really set some good times, making the most of our road position. To be leading the rally at the end of the opening day is a great feeling but we know it is very close and we will have a fight on our hands tomorrow. I have to say thanks to the whole team for their hard work. They have given us the perfect car. The stage wins on Friday morning were very nice but we knew the repeat loop would be tricky. We thought the soft tyres might be a bit on the limit but it was a risk that did not really pay off; we didn’t generate enough lateral grip. We have been quick in Mexico before so we hoped to be in the fight, and we will do all we can to remain in the podium battle.”

Sébastien Loeb, Citroen

“Overall, clearly, it has been a very good opening leg! I didn’t know what to expect before coming but we are here in second, not far off the lead, so I’m delighted to be on the pace after six years away from Mexico. We’re now going to try and maintain the same pace, but I know it won’t be easy. Tänak is very close behind, in particular, and we know he’s very good in the quick stages!”

Ott Tanak, Toyota 

“All in all, it has been a good day. It is my first time on gravel in this car, so there have been many new things to learn. The temperatures have been very high. This morning we had to manage it as best as we could but the team did an extremely good job during the service and made some good improvements. This afternoon I was pushing really hard. Our road position was not as good as the leaders but still we managed to close on them. It has been a nice start and we can definitely build on that tomorrow.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 03, Rally Mexico 2018 / March 8-11, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“Without the less-than-perfect tyre choice this morning and my two silly mistakes this afternoon, we could have been right up there at the front, so it’s a bit frustrating. But that’s life. The main thing is that our speed is good and I really enjoyed driving my C3 WRC. There is still a long way to go. I’m certainly going to keep pushing and let’s see how things work out.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“We tried to push as hard as possible today. We had a small spin which cost us maybe six or seven seconds but, being second on the road, I think we can still be happy with our day. We made the best of it and were beating everyone around us. But for sure the guys starting further back were faster – as we expected.

“Tomorrow won’t be much better as we’ll still start very early on the road. It’s going to be difficult to catch the guys in front but you never know and we’ll try our best.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Mexico (MEX) – WRC 08/03/2018 to 11/03/2018 – PHOTO : @World

Teemu Suninen

“I was struggling a bit with the rhythm this morning and wasn’t as fast as I wanted to be. I had a good road position and was hoping to be closer to the guys around me. But I was comparing myself to Loeb, and I need to remember that he is a nine-time World Champion!

“In the first stage of the second loop we were pushing a bit more. There was one easy right that narrowed towards the end and we ran a bit wide. We touched the fence and damaged some of the suspension parts.

“After that the car was really difficult to drive – which is normal if you break it! It was difficult to set the car for the corners and I was braking all the time and overheating the brakes. I ran wide and hit the barrier which forced us to retire for the day.

“But it was really good to win the super special stage as this is an area I have been working to improve. There are a lot of these stages on this rally and if you lose a couple of seconds on every one then it can be a lot of time at the end of the rally. We worked hard to improve on these kind of stages, so it was good to see that hard work paying off.”

 

Elfyn Evans

“We hit a series of bumps that were a lot worse than expected. We lost the rear – still in sixth gear – and didn’t have the power to pull out of the slide. We clipped the bank on the inside and rolled I don’t know how many times.

“I jumped out of the car immediately because I didn’t think there would be any way to continue. But when the dust settled we could see that the damage wasn’t too bad at all. We got our helmets back on and managed to finish the stage – which is incredible after a roll like that.

“We checked in with the medical team when we returned to service and Dan was advised to go for some further precautionary checks. We’re both okay, which is the main thing, and now we just need to focus on starting our season afresh in Corsica.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

“We have tried to push as hard as we could today in the circumstances. I’ve been happy enough overall, but we know there is room for improvement. In the morning loop, our focus was on getting to grips with the car, and how to control it on the dusty mountain stages. In the afternoon, we opted for harder compound tyres, which felt very slippery at times. It was difficult to know where to push, and how hard, because you lose the line so easily. There were a few mistakes here and there but generally it’s been a solid first day. We’re involved in a close battle for the top-five, which gives us something to build on.”

Thierry Neuville

“Not the most positive day for us. Our motivation level was quite high even if we knew it would be difficult as first on the road. We did our best not to lose too much time on the morning loop. Before the start of the short SS5 we were in seventh overall. Unfortunately, we had an unforeseen over-consumption of fuel, which caused a loss of fuel pressure in the stage. We lost around 20 seconds and two positions. It was really disappointing. The afternoon didn’t really improve and we struggled again in SS8 (Ortega 2) with some power steering trouble losing another 40 seconds of time. Tomorrow will be another hard day but we’ll keep pushing to get the best that we can out of the weekend.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
07-11 March 2018
Action
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“The car felt very good at the start of the first stage this morning but then we began to suffer from high engine temperatures. We were able to control it, but it affected our performance, and I was concentrating too much on the temperatures and not on the driving. The team worked on it during service and in the afternoon, it was getting better, so it was a shame that we had the problem with the alternator and had to retire. When we restart tomorrow, there is a good chance for some points so we just need to keep fighting.”

Esapekka Lappi

“It has been a really difficult day for me. This morning was quite disappointing and then I made a fairly stupid mistake this afternoon. On a 90-degree left-hander, I missed the line on entry and just slid wide and off the road. The car was not very badly damaged but we couldn’t get it back on the road. There were not so many positives for me from today but hopefully we can make something happen tomorrow.”

 

Saturday saw around 130km of stages. Loeb would draw first blood, winning stage 11 and with overnight leader Dani only fourth fastest and twelve seconds slower, Loeb moved into the lead, five seconds clear of the Spaniard in his Hyundai. Also, on the move was Kris, Ogier and Andreas who all passed Ott Tanak. He’d suffered turbo failure with seven km’s left of the stage, leaving him bereft of engine power. He retired after the stage.

Sébastien Loeb, Rally Mexico. Photo credit Citroen Racing

The following stage saw Loeb and Sordo set pretty much the same pace for fourth and fifth fastest, whilst Kris won the stage closing the gap to the top two by some ten seconds! Also going well was Ogier who had benefitted from Ott retiring plus also he’d brought the gap down to the leaders a full ten seconds, to under twenty.

 

The final stage of the morning saw Dani close the gap to the leader, whilst stage winner Ogier drew himself level on time with Kris, after the Northern Irishman suffered a scrappy stage with a stall and also running wide near the end of the stage.

 

After service, stage 14 saw our leader suffer a puncture after his tyre caught a stone on the line which saw him plummet to fifth position. Dani also lost time dropping thirty seconds and falling behind our new top two of Ogier and Meeke who were separated by just 3.8 seconds.

 

The next stage saw Kris spin and lose thirty seconds, giving Ogier a big lead of the same amount! Loeb was Ogier’s closest challenger, just six seconds down on his fellow country-man.

 

The second run of El Brinco saw Kris much closer to Ogier’s pace, just 2.6 slower through the 10km stage, whilst Dani was a similar amount further back, consolidating his third place overall.

 

The last two stages of the day were won by Meeke and Sordo, whilst Ogier’s lead stood at a remarkable 35 seconds! We’d had a super Seb Saturday, turning a thirty-second-time deficit, into a thirty-five second lead! Just astonishing! Dani Sordo had also driven a very clever day, minimising mistakes, and was well placed to take a deserved third place with a 45 second lead over Andreas, his teammate.

 

Let’s hear then from the top three once more.

 

Sébastien Ogier

“I am very happy to be in the lead at the end of the day. Our starting position was a bit better this morning and, in the afternoon, there was no cleaning left to do which is where we were able to make the biggest difference. We wanted to push – and I was pretty much on the limit most of the time – but we had a good feeling in the car.

“We didn’t always have a perfect run, but I was really happy with the morning loop where I made very few mistakes – especially in the second and third stages [SS12 and SS13] which were almost perfect.

“It was a bit tougher in the afternoon – still very slippery and very hot inside the car and for the engine and the brakes as well. It wasn’t an easy loop, but everything worked well and we can be really happy with the job we have done so far.”

Kris Meeke

“It was a good day for us in terms of rhythm, especially this morning when we were really comfortable. I then benefited from Seb’s puncture, but that’s part and parcel of rallying, and this stage was particularly tricky, with a lot of loose stones on the road. We now have to finish off the job tomorrow by making sure of second place, but it won’t be an easy task. The power stage might also be interesting, with temperatures that will have risen by lunchtime, whereas we’ll have to decide on tyre choice when it’s much cooler, early in the morning.”

Dani Sordo

“A podium in Mexico this weekend would be a great result and I am determined to keep this important position for me and the team. Things haven’t gone according to plan today. I struggled with confidence on the opening stage and lost some time compared to my nearest rivals. The feeling was better for the rest of the morning loop, but it was in the first stage of the afternoon when we lost most time. I hit a small stone at the start of SS14, so had to drive the 31km stage with a front-left puncture. With no spare tyres to rely on, I took the rest of the loop quite steady, not pushing hard. We didn’t want to risk anything. Meeke is not so far in front, so we have to make sure we remain focused and see what happens on Sunday morning.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Sébastien Loeb

“This morning, it was really nice to be able to confirm yesterday’s performance and hold the overall lead six years after my last Rally Mexico. To be honest, I hadn’t expected to be in this position before the start but it’s reassuring to know that I haven’t lost my driving skills! It was all set to be a good battle at the front until we got the puncture. There were two successive corners with stones on the inside of the bend. We went over them a little and one of them proved fatal. The mistake we made was to change the wheel. I wasn’t very familiar with how these tyres last and our instinct was the wrong one, probably from cross-country rallying, in fact! We would have lost a lot less time had we not stopped to change the tyre, but that’s just the way it goes. We’ll now try and make it to the finish and enjoy driving the car as much as possible.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

“The morning was tough and our stage times were not so impressive. We were really struggling when the grip levels were low. Things were better in the afternoon and we were more competitive. On the plus side, we are up to fourth, which is not so bad. There is a big gap to Dani in third and to Loeb in fifth, so we have to really concentrate on our own rally. It’s very easy to make a mistake here, so I want to keep a steady pace and rhythm. It’s impossible to do anything about our position based on pure driving but let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Thierry Neuville

“It has been another difficult day, but we’re still there and fighting. We have managed to gain one position today, and there are lots of things happening at the front of the pack. The morning didn’t get off to the best of starts after we got stuck in the water splash, losing over a minute of time. We also had two punctures during the day which made things very complicated. We learned a lot as first on the road, so we have to take some positives away despite the obvious frustrations. We have to look forward to Sunday and aim for some points to minimise the damage from this tough weekend.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen

“It’s been a bit difficult today. In the morning I was struggling to find the right rhythm and driving style. But in the end, it was getting better and the last few stages were okay. There is still some work to do, but the good thing is that I know where I can improve and be more precise with the driving.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I don’t think it’s ever been as hot in Mexico as it was this afternoon. For sure, it was asking a lot from the cars and the tyres. But overall it was a consistent day with no problems. Step by step we were improving. I hope the final day will be good for us because it has faster, more flowing stages which suits me and the car. These are my favourite stages in the rally. We will try to get eighth as the points could be very valuable for the championship, and of course there is a chance in the Power Stage too, so we have to keep attacking.”

Ott Tanak

“Everything was looking quite good this morning. I could feel more grip than yesterday, and that was suiting our car really well. I missed a junction early on and we lost close to 10 seconds there, but we were still trying to do a good stage. Then seven kilometres before the end the turbo failed and we had to retire from the day. Unfortunately, this is part of rallying, but I can be happy that our pace was competitive on our first gravel event with the team. We will try to do our best tomorrow: it would be nice to get some points from the Power Stage if possible”

Esapekka Lappi

“In general, it has been quite OK today and much better than yesterday. The mechanics did a good job to fix the car last night, so a big thank you to them. I was able to enjoy the driving this morning and the times were better. We were delayed after service because my seatbelt was stuck underneath a box that the TV crews had moved, so I had to wait half an hour for them to come and fix it. Once we got going we had some good splits before we got a puncture, and then on the next one I thought I had another puncture, but the time was actually quite decent. The Power Stage tomorrow gives us a chance to get some points.”

 

Sunday dawned dry and hot. Seb had a very good lead over Kris, but the gap to Dani was just eleven seconds. First stage was won by Jari-Matti, but it was not so good for Kris. The car slid wide, with the result that the wheels popped into a gulley and putting the car on its’ side. He lost 47 seconds, and with it any hope of second place and now Dani was in second place!

 

Stage 21 was won by Ott, returning to the fray with a new turbo under rally 2 rules, and with this stage doubling up as the power stage later it was one way to find out what would work later. Latvala and Neuville completed the top three.

 

Ott certainly knew the way with this stage, as he won it and the five points, with Seb second and Latvala third. There would be drama later though, with the French ace being given a ten second penalty for not correctly negotiating the chicane in that stage. This would drop him out of the top five, down to eighth place in the stage. Those to benefit were, Latvala, Neuville, Mikkelsen and Loeb.

However, Seb Ogier had given the field something to think about, after his amazing drive on Saturday, which had given him, Julien and the M-Sport team a consummate victory, tempered slightly with Elfyn and Dan not making the finish.

Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia – 2018 Rally Mexico Winners

Dani Sordo had driven very well all weekend, keeping errors to a minimum, and ultimately benefiting from Kris’ mistakes. A well deserved second place. Last year’s winner, certainly had the pace to win, but for those errors that came along. He’ll hope for better things in Corsica, for sure.

 

Final Classification

  1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:54:58.0
  2. Dani Sordo / Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:03.6
  3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) +1:19.2
  4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:38.4
  5. Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Citroen C3 WRC) +2:24.6
  6. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +9:03.0
  7. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +10:24.7
  8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +15:37.1
  9. Gus Greensmith / Craig Parry (Ford Fiesta R5) +17:09.3
  10. Pedro Heller / Pablo Olmos (Ford Fiesta R5) +24:18.1

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

After round 3

1              S. Ogier                56

2              T. Neuville           52

3              A. Mikkelsen      35

4              K. Meeke             32

5              J.M Latvala          31

6              O. Tanak               26

7              E. Lappi                 23

8              C. Breen               20

9              D. Sordo                18

10           H. Paddon            10

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

After round 3

 

1              Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team                   84

2              M-Sport Ford World Rally Team                                 72

3              Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team            71

4              Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team                  67

 

Ogier’s win put him back in the lead of the championship, four points ahead of Thierry.

Let’s hear then from the drivers!

 

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m super happy today and this win is a fantastic way for me and Julien to celebrate our tenth-year anniversary in the FIA World Rally Championship. It started in 2008 with a win in the Junior category and so many great things have happened here since then – this win, I think, being one of the best.

“This weekend we really gave it everything. Julien was perfect, and the team were so strong as well. The victory is great of course, but it’s the performance that was really good. We’ve made such a big improvement from last year, and that is a big positive for the rest of the season.

“I was pretty much on the limit all weekend. When you’re early on the road you’re trying your best but the time is still far away from those starting behind. There’s always some frustration coming with that, but you have to keep going and not give up.

“That’s what we did, and on the second day – when our road position was a bit better – we kept pushing and were able to take the lead in the afternoon.

“We can be very proud this weekend, and there’s not a lot we could have done better. We gave it everything – right up until the final stage.”

Dani Sordo

“I am very happy to score this podium after what has been an enjoyable, competitive but tough weekend. We have shown good pace here in previous seasons, so I was optimistic that we would be able to fight for the top-three this weekend. It wasn’t entirely straightforward; even in the Power Stage there was a scary moment when we picked up a rear right puncture. With stones in the middle of the road, it was so easy for something to happen so we backed off and took it carefully to the end. A podium result is so important and we made the most of our road position in these really tricky gravel stages. It’s been a good team effort and I am particularly pleased to see us increase our lead in the manufacturers’ championship. Thanks to Carlos and to the whole team for this result.”

Kris Meeke

“Obviously, there are positives to take away from this weekend, starting with the fact that I secured my first podium of the year and picked up good points for the championship. But I can’t help but feel disappointed, not least for the team. I had everything you need to win here in Mexico – the pace, the car and road position – but I didn’t do the job. I made too many silly mistakes and you just can’t get away with that at this level. I need to tidy my game up, starting in Corsica where we were very competitive last year.”

Kris Meeke, Paul Nagle – Rally Mexico 2018 – Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

“It has not been an easy rally for us, and we haven’t really been able to find the optimum pace or performance that we needed here. We made some changes to the car in service on Saturday evening, and I felt more comfortable in this morning’s final stages. We weren’t really in a position to improve, so we simply tried to keep things clean and tidy. There were definitely areas where we could have attacked more but finishing fourth gives us important points. As a team we have increased our lead in the manufacturers’ table, and I have also moved up to third in the drivers’ classification, which is a positive to take away.”

Thierry Neuville

“We approached the final morning of the rally determined to score as many points as possible for the drivers’ championship. I gave it all I could in the Power Stage, and I’m happy to take three extra points away from what has been a very tough weekend. Starting first on the road each day was far from ideal, but that’s part of the game. It was actually a useful experience to deal with those conditions, despite the obvious time disadvantage. We had some other issues over the weekend, so to come away with sixth place and to keep up the pressure in the championship is important. Thanks to everyone in the team. We have a never-give-up mentality, and Corsica will be another story.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Sébastien Loeb

“Coming into the rally, I felt that testing had gone well, but I obviously had no certainty about my level, bearing in mind that everyone is fighting over tenths of a second, and that it doesn’t take much to find yourself left behind a little bit. So, it was a nice surprise to be on the pace! I’m just a bit frustrated that I wasn’t able to test myself properly against the others right to the end because of the puncture. In any case, it was a very good weekend and that was the initial aim of this comeback. I hope I can now go on to get a good result in Corsica, even though I’ll still have quite a few things to refamiliarise myself with.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I had a fantastic feeling this morning and the car felt very good. We had a really big push and won the first stage. Then the second stage was also really good, even though we had to save the tyres a bit. In the Power Stage I gave it everything and I’m really happy to finish second fastest with my road position. It has been a difficult weekend but to retire from one day and still come back and score eight points is good. Overall, I know that the car performance is there, and now I am starting to find the performance in myself.”

Ott Tänak

“Today we were putting everything on the Power Stage. We had nothing to lose and just wanted to get these five points. The car was performing really well and I felt really comfortable in the car so I could give an extra push. Of course, I’m not happy with the overall result as we were in contention for the win, but we still have a long season ahead of us and the performance side has been good. It was my first time on gravel in the car, we learned a lot and we can see many places where we can improve.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Today we were concentrating on the Power Stage, so in the first two stages we just wanted to get through them, check the pace-notes and save the tyres. It has been a tough weekend for us. The highlight has actually been the spectator stages. In our pre-event test we did some work on a go-kart track and we managed to find some new things which seem to have worked, because last evening I almost did the fastest time on the street stage. Previously we had been losing a lot of time in those. We also gained a lot of experience and data, which we can use to improve next year.”

 

M-Sport Ford

Teemu Suninen

“It’s been a difficult rally for us, but we showed some improvement over the second loops and I was also fast on the city stages which is a big positive. These type of stages [city stages] had been my weakness and we worked really hard to improve, so that was a good.

“Of course, it would have been nicer to have been a bit faster on the gravel – and not to have made the mistakes on Friday – but we still learnt a lot and know where we can improve. I need to keep the car on the line and be a bit earlier on the throttle. It’s just some little things, but if you lose 0.1 seconds on every corner it will be a lot of time at the end of the rally!

“We need to analyse this event and then focus on our next one in Argentina. I did the recce there in 2016, so I know something about the stages but this will be my first time in a rally car. Because of this, we will need to prepare even more than normal.”

 

Gus Greensmith (2nd WRC 2) Fiesta R5

“I feel pretty good after this one. It’s a relief to get to the end to be honest as it was a rough rally – much rougher than I expected – so to walk away with second in WRC 2 and ninth overall is great.

“It was one of those rallies where you don’t want to drive conservatively but, with the attrition rate so high and the wise words of Malcolm and Dad, that’s what we did. I don’t want to have to do it again, but they’re a lot cleverer than me and we’re now fourth in the championship after just one rally.

“I also have to say a big thanks to the team as there wasn’t a single problem with the car all weekend. Everything was brilliant, just brilliant.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Mexico (MEX) – WRC 08/03/2018 to 11/03/2018 – Gus Greensmith / Craig Parry Fiesta R5 – PHOTO : @World

Pedro Heller (3rd WRC 2) Fiesta R5

“I feel really, really happy after this rally. If you compare it to last year, it’s the complete opposite! Okay the gap to the winner was pretty big, but this is Mexico – it’s rough and we made it to the end with our first points in WRC 2 and also our first top-ten finish overall. Now, I’m looking forward to Argentina where we plan to do the same.”

The next round is on the weekend of the 5th to 8th of April on the Island of Corsica. Can Thierry get back winning ways, or will Seb prevail again? Perhaps Kris can follow up his speed from last year and take his first victory. Or will we see Jari-Matti follow up his victory from 2015 and take a win for Toyota?

 

See you then!

Rally Mexico 2018 Preview- Who will conquer the gravel?

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

 

The WRC heads for much warmer climes in Mexico after the snow and ice of Monte and Sweden! Thierry Neuville leads the championship after a brilliant drive last month. Seb will want to fight back on the classic stages that make this incredible event. Its held at over 2,200 metres, and this has a very big effect on engine performance, with every 1000 metres leading to a 10% loss of engine power.

 

Big news is that a certain nine-time World Champion will be making his return with Citroen in Mexico, but this does mean that Craig Breen will not be competing, and that is a shame considering his drive to second in Sweden. Last year, Kris Meeke won this rally and he’ll be hoping he can do the same again to get his season going. Certainly, the car will go a lot better this year with the handling problems sorted.

 

Toyota suffered last year as well, but with a whole event completed and a year to work on their car will almost certainly feature near the front with the combined talents of Jari-Matti, Ott and Esapekka.

 

Here’s the details then of the stages that await them!

Stagelocal time (mexico)gmt
Thursday 8th March
shakedown (Llano Grande)9:0015:00
Start day 1 (Leon)18:150:15
SS 1 – Monster Street Stage GTO (2,53 km20:082:08
End of day 121:383:38
Friday 9th March
Start day 2 and Service A (Leon – 15 min)9:3015:30
SS 2 – Duarte – Derramadero 1 (26,05 km)10:3316:33
SS 3 – El Chocolate 1 (31,44 km)11:2117:21
SS 4 – Ortega 1 (17,23 km)12:4118:41
SS 5 – Street Stage Leon 1 (1,11 km)14:0220:02
Service B (Leon – 30 min)14:4220:42
SS 6 – Duarte – Derramadero 2 (26,05 km)16:0022:00
SS 7 – El Chocolate 2 (31,44 km)16:4822:48
SS 8 – Ortega 2 (17,23 km)17:4123:41
SS 9 – Autodromo de Leon 1 (2,30 km)20:062:06
SS 10 - Autodromo de Leon 2 (2,30 km)20:112:11
Flexi Service C (Leon – 45 min)21:263:26
Saturday 10th March
Start day 3 and Service D (Leon – 15 min)7:3013:30
SS 11 – Guanajuatito 1 (30,97 km)8:3314:33
SS 12 – Otates 1 (26,37 km)10:1116:11
SS 13 – El Brinco 1 (9,98 km)11:0817:08
Service E (Leon – 30 min)12:4818:48
SS 14 – Guanajuatito 2 (30,97 km)14:2120:21
SS 15 – Otates 2 (26,37 km)15:3421:34
SS 16 – El Brinco 2 (9,98 km)16:4822:48
SS 17 – Autodromo de Leon 3 (2,30 km)17:3823:38
SS 18 – Autodromo de Leon 4 (2,30 km)17:4323:43
Flexi Service F (Leon – 45 min)18:330:33
SS 19 – Street Stage Leon 2 (1,11 km)20:262:26
Sunday 11th March
Start day 3 and Service D (Leon – 15 min)7:3013:30
SS 11 – Guanajuatito 1 (30,97 km)8:3314:33
SS 12 – Otates 1 (26,37 km)10:1116:11
SS 13 – El Brinco 1 (9,98 km)11:0817:08
Service E (Leon – 30 min)12:4818:48
SS 14 – Guanajuatito 2 (30,97 km)14:2120:21
SS 15 – Otates 2 (26,37 km)15:5421:54
SS 16 – El Brinco 2 (9,98 km)16:3822:38
SS 17 – Autodromo de Leon 3 (2,30 km)17:3823:38
SS 18 – Autodromo de Leon 4 (2,30 km)17:4323:43
Flexi Service F (Leon – 45 min)18:270:27
SS 19 – Street Stage Leon 2 (1,11 km)20:262:26

Let’s hear from the drivers then!

Hyundai Motorsport

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
08-12 March 2017
Dani Sordo, Marc Marti, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville

“We head to Mexico on the back of our fantastic win in Sweden, so our motivation and morale could not be higher. Mexico is a nice event and one that brings back good memories. I got my first podium there in 2013, and then scored Hyundai Motorsport’s first ever podium just one year later. The rally has a more relaxed atmosphere, and it’s generally a lot calmer for the drivers. We arrive a bit earlier than normal in order to acclimatise and adjust to the time difference. It is the first event of the year with higher temperatures – and altitude – making it a unique and enjoyable challenge.”

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Mexico is an event I’ve done three times in the past. It’s a beautiful rally with stages that are similar from one season to the next, so we know them well. It is always a warm event, so we have to take extra care of the brakes. It is also quite a rough rally, which means it very easy to make a mistake. There is typically a lot of road cleaning, and with stages being held at altitude the engine is down on power, so it requires a slight change of driving style. After finishing on the podium in Sweden, our first one with Hyundai Motorsport, I’m ready to fight for another strong result.”

Dani Sordo

“I was pleased to see the team score its first win of the season in Sweden, and I am happy to be returning to the line-up for Rally Mexico. I have always enjoyed driving on the Mexican stages, which are lined with many passionate rally fans, who cheer and support us throughout the weekend. Road cleaning in Mexico can create a big difference between those first on the road and those behind. I hope we can benefit a bit from our position and compete near the front to help the team defend our manufacturers’ championship lead.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I always like going to Mexico and enjoying the warmth and the sun for the first time after the winter. The stages have sections that are very fast and sections that are very slow, and there are a lot of loose rocks off the line so you have to be precise with your driving. If we can finish on the podium that would be really good for the championship. It’s clear that the performance is there in the car. We had a good gravel test in Spain last week: of course, in Mexico it is going to be warmer but it is the best you can do in Europe at this time of the year. We had some updates to the suspension and I could feel that the traction and the grip under braking are better than what we had at the end of last year.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Ott Tänak

“Rally Mexico will be my first event on gravel in the Yaris WRC. I have many new things to learn, but we had two days of testing in Spain last week which were very useful. We tried as many different things as possible, just to understand how the car reacted. The early feeling with the car on gravel is quite good: there are still some things to get used to and some things that we can develop. In Mexico we will have a better road position, starting fifth. The road sweeping has a big effect there, so this should help us. I have quite a bit of experience in Mexico now, so I feel comfortable going there and I think we have a good chance to fight for the top positions.”

Esapekka Lappi

“This will be the first time that I have competed in Mexico, although I did do the recce last year so I have some idea of what to expect. The surface is similar to the gravel roads in Spain, where everybody has done their pre-event testing, but I think the stages will be much rougher on the second pass. The altitude will also make a big difference: I have never driven those kinds of conditions where the air is really thin. It means there is less power from the engine, so you may have to drive in a slightly different way. I am quite happy with how my season has started and hopefully we can continue that in Mexico. The main target for me though has to be to do every stage and gain that experience for the future.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“Mexico is a bit like Catalonia, one of the gravel rallies where we were pretty competitive last year. Since then, we have made further improvements to the C3 WRC, so I have high hopes that we can get among the frontrunners. Of course, a lot of our rivals had reliability issues related to the altitude last year and are bound to be a lot better prepared this time around. It’s definitely an event that I like: as the full power of the cars is not available, you have to be as clean as possible in your driving. I’m also pretty pleased with our recent tests. We seem to have made more progress, especially on the dampers in conjunction with Öhlins. That was Sébastien’s impression too. In any case, I’m really looking forward to it. We need to make the most of running seventh on the road on day one – that will be key in getting a good result.”

Kris Meeke, Paul Nagle during last years Rally Mexico. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Sébastien Loeb

“This is a rally that I have always loved, so I have high hopes I will enjoy these stages in the C3 WRC, which is an exciting car to drive. Other than that, I have the same uncertainties as everyone else: although I hope to be more or less on the pace, I have no idea where I stand in relation to the other drivers, so I can’t wait to get started! You have to bear in mind that this is still the world championship! The other drivers haven’t stood still over the last few years… In any case, I’m pleased with the testing we did. I covered almost 500 kilometres in two days. I found the C3 WRC well balanced and I felt that it had improved again since my last test outing at the end of 2017. I have tried to give myself every chance by spending some time in a DS3 WRC beforehand to get the feeling and my reflexes back, and by watching some onboard video footage from previous rallies. 28% of the course is going to be new to me, compared with just 4% for the others, but that’s pretty positive because it is one of the events I still know best. However, my memories of the 72% that I have driven before go back six years, so I’ve done a little bit of work so that I don’t feel completely disorientated. I hope my position in Friday’s running order (11th) will help me to get my bearings because with the current regulations, you really need to have a good first day, otherwise your rally suffers.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

There’s always a special feeling when we return to Rally Mexico – because it’s where everything started for me 10 years ago! It was our first event in the world championship, and the story started with victory in the Junior WRC.

“Since then we added a couple of podiums and victories at the highest level which means that I obviously have Rally Mexico in my heart! We’ll for sure do our best to continue this love story with another strong result and are looking forward to the great Mexican atmosphere!

“This might be the first gravel event of the year, but it has its own unique character which sets it apart from the more traditional gravel rallies. The altitude is higher than anything else we experience throughout the year and the thinner air means a lot less power than we’re used to.

“Those conditions – linked with the pretty high temperatures – are practically impossible to reproduce in Europe which means we are counting even more than usual on the job done by our engineers in the climatic chamber to get the maximum performance.

“The loose gravel can also pose something of a challenge for the early runners and, even though we won’t be the first car on the road next week, there will still be a lot of fast drivers behind us. We need to try and stay as close as we can on Friday morning. Then, we can see where we are and push for the best possible result.”

Seb Ogier, M-Sport Ford. Photo credit MFORN Studio.

Elfyn Evans

“Rally Mexico is an event that I really enjoy. It’s such a colourful rally with a great atmosphere and we’ve done well there in the past. It’s one of those events where a clever run can deliver the results. You need to get the balance between speed and risk just right, and that’s exactly what we’ll be aiming for next week.

“When you think about this event two things come to mind – the heat and the altitude. We’ve got to get quickly acclimatised to the environment – both in terms of our physical fitness and our driving style. The thinner air can see the power reduced by as much as 20 percent so you’ve got to be tidy and keep the momentum through the corners.

“We’ll have a good road position, but that’s not without its challenges as there’s an added risk of rocks being pulled onto the racing line. We’ll need to stay focused and hopefully we can deliver a strong result to kick-start our 2018 campaign.”

Teemu Suninen

“Mexico is one of the special events on the calendar where we face some really extreme conditions. The weather is always warm, and the high altitude means that we feel the lack of oxygen. It has an effect on the drivers, but also on the cars with 20 percent less power than the more traditional gravel events.

“It’s a shame that the winter weather prevented us from testing, but that’s the way it goes sometimes and we will have to make good use of the Shakedown to get accustomed to the feeling of driving here in Mexico.

“It’s difficult to estimate our chances next week. I won the WRC 2 class here a few years ago, but this year will be completely different and I expect the competition to be really tough. I’ll try to concentrate on my own driving and then we will see where we are.”

 

After two rounds and two different winners, who could win this event? Road position will have a big impact on the kind of pace that the drivers will able to produce on the stages. Then there’s the thin air…. All the teams have done a lot of work to minimize the effects of this on these unique stages!

Enjoy!