The event got underway with two stages around the famous square in Mexico City. To get the cars there some 400km’s from the base in Leon, they were driven down in transporters, with the teams heading down in a plane. What transpired though was a big shame. The first two stages on Friday morning had to be cancelled. The reason? Well, the transporters were held up on the road back for five hours after there was accident on the road.
The results for those first two stages looked like this
1. Hanninen – 1:51,1 (50,9kph)
2. Meeke +0:00,3
3. Paddon +0:01,6
1. Ogier – 1:44,8 (53,9kph)
2. Tanak +0:00,1
3. Neuville +0:00,3
So, the top ten looked like this after those two short stages
1 HAN 0:03:37,2
2 MEEKE +0:01,6
3 TAN +0:01,6
4 NEU +0:02,6
5 PAD +0:03,2
6 OGI +0:04,0
7 SOR +0:06,0
8 LAT +0:06,2
9 TID +0:06,7
10 BER +0:10,3
11 LEFEBVRE +0:19,4
16 EVA +5:02,5
So, Juha Hanninen was our surprise leader and with the two morning stages cancelled we had to wait till mid-afternoon before stage four started.
This was the famous El Chocolate which at 54,9 kms and high in the mountains as well, would be a real challenge for these new cars.
It was Kris and Paul who emerged in the lead after this monster stage, held over 2700 metres above sea level! All the Hyundai, M-Sport and Toyota drivers reported big problems with their cars, overheating and going into road mode, meaning that they couldn’t push like they wanted.
Stage four top three
1. Meeke – 39:15,6 (83,9kph)
2. Ogier +0:07,3
3. Paddon +0:17,9
Next up was stage five, and it saw a fight back from the Hyundai and M-Sport drivers with Thierry winning the stage, Elfyn in the D-Mack Fiesta second and Dani in third.
SS5 – Las Minas 2 (19,68km)
1. Neuville – 14:12,6 (83,1kph)
2. Evans +0:05,7
3. Sordo +0:06,5
It was a good fight back for the Hyundai drivers, with good times seeing them both come up the leaderboard after their problems in El Chocolate. Kris Meeke, rally leader lost some time in this stage, after a spin and stalled engine which lost him around eight seconds.
SS6 – Guanajuato Street Stage (1,09km)
1. Neuville – 0:57,3 (68,5kph)
2. Evans +0:01,4
3. Sordo +0:01,4
Just a short stage then and Thierry continued his strong pace which we have seen from the beginning of the year. Also, a good show from Elfyn, showing that he’s very comfortable in his Fiesta and able to express his talent.
Stage 7- Autódromo de León 1 – 2.30 km
1. Meeke 1:40.0
2. Elfyn +0.2
Stage 8 – Autódromo de León 2 – 2.30 km
1. Evans 1:38.0
2. Meeke +0.3
3. Hänninen +1.3
This was the top ten then at the end of this shortened day.
1 K. Meeke P. Nagle 1:01:33.8
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia +20.9
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul +56.7
4 J. Hänninen K. Lindström +1:27.3
5 O. Tanak M. Jarveoja +1:32.9
6 S. Lefebvre G. Moreau +1:52.8
7 H. Paddon J. Kennard +2:02.1
8 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila +2:30.8
9 P. Tidemand J. Andersson +3:24.3
10 E. Camilli B. Veillas +3:59.7
Let’s hear then from all the drivers, starting with the top three.
Kris Meeke said:
“Everything went very well today. We clearly had a good road position, but we had to make the most of it. I didn’t push too hard, because winning isn’t my main target for the weekend. My only regret was the minor mistake I made on SS5, which cost us about eight or nine seconds. But it’s good to be running well after a pretty tough start to the season! I’ll be looking keep up the same pace tomorrow.”
Sébastien Ogier said:
“It’s been a difficult day for more or less everyone but I think we managed it quite well and we can’t complain about being in second place and just 20 seconds off the lead tonight!
“Almost everyone had temperature issues and it was the same for us. We had to run most of the first stage in safe mode. I tried to be as soft as I could but we didn’t reach a critical point so there is nothing major that we need to be worrying about – but of course we still need to find a solution.
“We’ll have a good position on the road tomorrow which hasn’t been the case for quite a long time on gravel, so I’m looking forward to that. There are some very demanding stages still to come, and the temperatures could play a crucial role again, but we’ve been working hard with the team so hopefully we’ll have a good solution.”
Thierry Neuville said: “It was a frustrating way to end the day but we have to concentrate on the positives – we made it through despite the problems and we are still inside the top-three. This is very important as we look to fight for a podium this weekend. We will work hard with the team to make sure we get everything working at optimum level for Saturday’s stages. This is an unforgiving rally, particularly for a brand-new car. We are still learning things; I just hope that’s our bad luck out of the way for this rally. We’ll have a good road position for Saturday so let’s see what happens.”
The rest of the drivers
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“I knew that the first day in Mexico would be tough, but maybe not this tough! We’ve seen in the past that overheating has been a particular problem on the very long El Chocolate stage, and I had to switch the car to road mode to try and cool it down, going back to stage mode as soon as it was a safe temperature. It was a little bit the same story on the other stages as well. In any case, I knew that we would lose time being first on the road today but we’re still here and looking forward to a better day tomorrow. There’s always a great atmosphere in Mexico and I am really enjoying being here.”
Juho Hänninen said:
“A tricky day, definitely, which meant that we weren’t able to take as much advantage of our road position as we would have liked. Still, after a long time away from this rally, we have to be happy with fourth overall, especially as there is a very long way still to go. Maybe we made a tyre choice that was too hard as well: even though we had a good road position I was still quite shocked as to how slippery the surface was. Like Jari-Matti we also had some problems with overheating but I think the engineers and mechanics can sort this out at service.”
Ott Tänak said:
“The Mexico City stage was a really good idea. It was a very nice place to start the rally and, even though there are some lessons to learn for the future, I think it was generally very good.
“Almost everybody has had some issues to deal with today. This was our first time here with the new cars and our first time with this altitude and these temperatures.
“There are some things to learn for sure, but I think we managed the day pretty well and we are still here which is the most important thing.
“We’ll be taking a good look at everything this evening and hopefully it will be okay for tomorrow. There’s still a long way to go and anything can happen.”
Elfyn Evans said:
“It wasn’t a perfect start with the penalty, but there was no point dwelling on that, we just had to go out there and drive our best.
“We had a small issue with some overheating which we had to stop and check on the first stage [SS4], but generally I think the feeling has been pretty good.
“Obviously it was the first time here with these new cars so it was to be expected that it wasn’t all going to be plain sailing. Almost everyone has experienced some sort of issue today, and I think we managed our day pretty well with a few top times to boot.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a difficult day running first on the road, but we just have to try our best and see what we can do.”
Hayden Paddon said:
“It’s a very unfortunate situation that we had engine misfire issues across all cars but that’s part of rallying. Mexico is an incredibly tough, hard rally so the most important thing is that we made it through the stages and out the other end. Tomorrow’s another day, as the saying goes. These are extreme conditions with the heat and the altitude that we just can’t replicate fully in Europe. We will get on top of it and fight back on Saturday.”
Dani Sordo said:
“It’s obviously very disappointing to lose so much time on the shorter Super Special Stages. There was some confusion on my first run at the Autódromo, when we weren’t allowed to finish the stage. We need to understand what happened because from my point of view there was no reason to stop us. We were losing time because of the engine issue but we were still going. It had been a pretty good day up to that point. We had shown encouraging pace and weren’t taking any risks. The car felt competitive, so our aim now is to regain this for the rest of the weekend. There’s still a long way to go.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“For my first appearance at this rally in a WRC, the team asked me to focus on learning about the stages and adopt a measured pace. We made the right call on tyre choice and I remained focused on my job behind the wheel. The two gravel stages gave me a chance to improve and I’m pleased to be in sixth position, less than half a minute from the top 5.”
Saturday dawned and we would get a full day of competition! Nine stages, some just a couple of km’s and some more than 38km’s!
First, we found out what had caused the problems with the Hyundai’s. The team traced the problem to fuel filters which were blocked.
Stage nine first up then and Dani was pretty fired up, after he was given some time penalties. He flew through the stage to go fastest from Seb, who was 3 seconds slower. Third fastest was Kris, only losing a little of his lead to Seb. Kris did have a worry at the end with smoke coming into the car. The good news that it was just hot brakes causing this, and nothing bad ultimately.
SS9 – Media Luna 1 (27,42km)
1. Sordo – 17:01,4 (96,6kph)
2. Ogier +0:03,2
3. Meeke +0:04,1
Stage ten would also fall to Dani, clearly now in the groove, with Kris setting the same time as Dani and Seb a few seconds slower. Stephane Lefebvre would slide off the road, leaving the car beached.He would be done for the day, but there wasn’t any damage, so he would be able to re-join under the super rally rules.
SS10 – Lajas de Oro 1 (38,31km)
1. Sordo – 28:17,5 (81,2kph)
2. Meeke +0:00,0
3. Ogier +0:03,6
Stage eleven would see Thierry win the stage, the famous El Brinco, with a jump in the stage! Kris had had problems in the past with this stage, but this year he was fine and would once again match the time of the Hyundai driver, this time of course it being Thierry. Look how close they all were though!
SS11 – El Brinco 1 (10,09km)
1. Neuville – 5:27,1 (111,0kph)
2. Meeke +0:00,0
3. Ogier +0:00,8
Stage twelve saw the crews tackle Media Luna a second time and, we saw that Seb would take it this time from Kris, but running a different tyre combination, that would account for the couple of seconds’ difference.
SS12 – Media Luna 2 (27,42km)
1. Ogier – 16:44,0 (98,3kph)
2. Meeke +0:02,2
3. Tanak +0:05,6
Stage thirteen next and Kris would win it, so perhaps his tyre choice was better than Seb’s? Especially given Seb would suffer a spin and lose 18 seconds to Kris.
SS13 – Lajas de Oro 2 (38,31km)
1. Meeke – 28:10,6 (81,6kph)
2. Neuville +0:05,7
3. Tanak +0:12,6
Stage fourteen and the re-run of El Brinco, saw young Estonian Ott set the fastest time with Seb matching him and Thierry third.
SS14 – El Brinco 2 (10,09km)
1. Tanak – 5:22,2 (112,7kph)
2. Ogier +0:00,4
3. Neuville +0:01,2
Just three short stages then at the end of this second full day and Elfyn and Seb would win them. At the end of them, Jari-Matti would sneak back ahead of his team-mate Juho into sixth place.
SS15 – Autodrómo de León 3 (2,3km)
1. Evans – 1:37,5 (84,9kph)
2. Latvala +0:01,0
3. Neuville +0:04,2
SS16 – Autodrómo de León 4 (2,3km)
1. Evans – 1:38,1 (84,4kph)
2. Latvala +0:00,9
3. Neuville +0:02,5
SS17 – Street stage Feria de León (1,33km)
1. Ogier – 1:16,9 (62,3kph)
2. Neuville +0:00,1
3. Sordo +0:00,4
End of Saturday top ten
1. Meeke + 2:47:33.3
2. Ogier +30.9
3. Neuville +1:10.5
4. Tänak +2:12.6
5. Paddon +3:25.5
6. Latvala +4:32.9
7. Hänninen +4:32.9
8. Sordo +5:16.1
9. Evans +8:22.1
10. Tidemand +9:26.4
Let’s hear from the top three then.
Kris Meeke said:
“Following a solid morning, we knew the afternoon loop could be decisive after going for a harder tyre choice than our direct rivals. I had to make it stick… and it worked! On the longest stage, I was able to pull clear. I’ve now got a healthy lead in the overall standings, but we’ll need to keep it neat and tidy tomorrow. I’m pleased to have been able to show the potential of the Citroën C3 WRC. I knew we had done a good job on the car! I’m also proud to have been quicker than Sébastien Ogier in normal racing conditions, without anyone mentioning the start order.”
Sébastien Ogier said:
“I’m never happy when I lose time but I have no regrets. I did what I could today – pushing without doing anything crazy – but it wasn’t enough and we were only able to set the same pace as Kris [Meeke] who is doing a great job. When it’s like this you have to be clever and think about the points which will be very good for us in terms of the championship.
“There’s still a long way to go and anything can happen. We need to stay focused, keep the same rhythm and keep applying some pressure. You never know what can happen and we can also focus on the Power Stage for a few extra points there.”
Thierry Neuville said: “First of all, I’d like to thank all the guys for an outstanding job in preparing the car for today’s stages. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC worked really well and it’s great to retain our podium position with two tests remaining. The morning loop went without incident. Our pace notes were perhaps a bit slow in places and some parts were quite tricky. Our tyre choice for the afternoon was maybe not ideal but we made it through and our aim now is to secure the podium with, hopefully, some Power Stage points.”
Ott Tänak said:
“It’s been a nice day – our first gravel rally with these new cars and we’ve been trying to improve as the day has gone on. In the afternoon, I think we made the right tyre choice and it was a clean run through.
“Tomorrow there will be some more quite long and tricky stages including the Power Stage. This year you can collect quite a few points there so we need to be smart and hopefully we can collect some of those too.”
Elfyn Evans said:
“It was always going to be a challenge opening the road but the morning was pretty positive. We struggled a bit more this afternoon, but on the whole I think it’s been okay. We’re learning a lot about the new car on gravel and hopefully we can continue in the same vein tomorrow.
“It was good to get a couple of stage victories in the bag on the super specials this afternoon as well – although to be fair I was helped a bit by the weather so I can’t take all of the credit for those!”
Hayden Paddon commented: “There’s not much to say about this rally, in which we had some problems. We can only take consolation from a top-five finish, but with some more luck we know we can be fighting higher up – and for the podium. It’s been good to be back on gravel, it’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t show a better performance. We can only keep on working in the hope that the tide will turn soon. Corsica is next, where I’m hopeful we can get better results.”
Dani Sordo said: “I was pleased that our penalty from yesterday was overturned. It meant we could focus on just getting the best out of the car and ourselves. I tried to do well and the feeling from our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC was very good. I was honoured to take the team’s 100th stage win this morning, and to take two stage wins in total. It shows just what we are capable of. The afternoon loop was not quite as clean. I picked up a flat tyre on the road section before the second run through Lajas de Oro, which meant we had to change to a worn tyre. It was a bit rushed, but we made it through the day and we’ll do all we can to reduce our deficit to the top-six in Sunday’s final two stages.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing
Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“We’ve been managing the car and our situation today and that has worked well for us. The only mistake we made is choosing the wrong tyre: we were actually expecting rain, then it didn’t happen, so we ended up running on a tyre that was too soft, which gave us a lot of wear. The team found a solution to the overheating problems that were affecting us yesterday, which meant that we were gradually able to increase the power throughout the day. On the final day, tomorrow, our aim is to defend our position and score some points: especially on the Power Stage.”
Juho Hänninen said:
“We did what we could today. Like Jari-Matti, our tyre choice was a bit too soft. Also, I wasn’t feeling so well: it’s hard to know how much that affected me, but this afternoon was little better. Generally, it was OK on the stages but it felt worse after I stopped. The car felt very good: thank you to the engineers and mechanics for fixing the problem we had yesterday so efficiently. Today we did a lot of valuable mileage, which means that we can be much better in future in these types of conditions.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“Three kilometres from the end of SS10, I got caught out when I lost the rear of the car on a long left-hand turn. The car slid wide and off the road, onto a slope. We were unable to get the car back on the road, as there weren’t enough spectators around to help us. It’s pretty rough for us, given just how many fans there are next to the roads here! Everything was going well up to that point. I felt good in the car, but this minor mistake is a very costly one. I’ll be back in action tomorrow to keep learning about the stages.”
So, into Sunday we headed, with everything looking very stable. Just two stages awaited the crews. First up La Calera. Normally we see short stages on Sunday’s, but there was still over 50km’s of action!
Kris took stage 18, with a decent time, opening out his lead by a further seven seconds to nearly forty. Impressive indeed! He was happy that the mud created in the stage by the rain protected his tyres. There was drama for Dani in his i20! Just as he started the stage, it started to rain and then his wipers didn’t work, so it was impressive that he was only 20 seconds slower than Kris. Jari-Matti lost a few seconds to his teammate with a spin on a right-hander about 8km’s into the stage.
1. Meeke – 21:53,7 (90,3kph)
2. Ogier +0:06,3
3. Lefebvre +0:12,6
One stage then to go, and all the cars made it through pretty much okay. Thierry set the quickest time and took all five power stage points with Seb second just three tenths off. There was massive drama for Kris and Paul though! With just one kilometre to go, in a right-hander the car took off and when it landed off into a hedge lining the road with a carpark just the other side. When the C3 WRC emerged the other side, it clipped a VW Passat causing a little damage and the start of a puncture on the left-hand side of the car. Kris drove around the carpark looking for an exit, losing time! Paul pointed and Kris floored the throttle and the C3 burst through the hedge, taking some red tickertape with it, wrapped around the aerials and rear wing! They powered through the remaining kilometre and crossed the line, pretty sure that they’d lost the victory. In fact, they had won, crossing the line eighth fastest, 23 seconds slower than Thierry, but crucially still a gap of 13.8 seconds remained of what was a lead of 37 seconds. Kris and Paul had won taken their fourth victory and the first for the new Citroen C3.
SS19 – Derramadero Power Stage (21,94km)
1. Neuville – 12:13,9 (107,6kph)
2. Ogier +0:00,3
3. Tanak +0:03,8
4. Latvala +0:08,0
5. Sordo +0:09,8
Final Overall Classification – Rally Mexico
1 K. Meeke P. Nagle 3:22:04.6
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia +13.8
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul +59.7
4 O. Tanak M. Jarveoja +2:18.3
5 H. Paddon J. Kennard +3:32.9
6 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila +4:40.3
7 J. Hänninen K. Lindström +5:06.2
8 D. Sordo M. Martí +5:22.7
9 E. Evans D. Barritt +8:41.8
10 P. Tidemand J. Andersson +10:51.9
So, let’s hear from the top three after a simply heart-stopping moment!
Kris Meeke 1st Place said:
“I think I might end up telling this story hundreds of times… I’m annoyed with myself for making that mistake. The car went wide after a big compression and we were very lucky. I quickly looked to get back on the road because I knew we could still win. That’s the main thing: we showed the potential of the Citroën C3 WRC in securing the car’s first win. I’m proud and delighted for the entire team, this result is for them.”
Sébastien Ogier 2nd Place said:
“I’m really pleased with this result. Coming away from Mexico with 22 points is a great result for me and honestly, I would have taken that before the rally. Opening the road on Friday, we knew that we would struggle in the loose conditions but I think we managed it pretty well.
“When the conditions become more even we were able to set the same pace as Kris but I must congratulate him also. He had a really strong drive and didn’t give us the chance to make any inroads into his lead so it was a deserved victory for him.”
Thierry Neuville 3rd Place said:
“I can only say that I am really happy to have finished on the podium here in Mexico. It’s dedicated to the whole team of Hyundai Motorsport who have kept pushing me after the disappointment of the first two rallies. I described Monte and Sweden as fast but frustrating, so it’s great to be back in the top-three and scoring Power Stage points today. The team has worked hard this weekend, to fix the car after some problems on Friday. It was their persistence and determination that allowed us to stay in the podium positions, so thanks to them. Onwards and upwards.”
Now for the rest of the drivers.
Ott Tänak 4th said:
“We lost a lot of time on Friday so it was a shame not to be on the podium, but it was still a positive event for us. From yesterday onwards we were back on the pace and setting good times so I’m happy with that. It was a very positive rally for the team as a whole and we’ve got some more good points on the board for the championship which is really important.”
Hayden Paddon 5th Place said:
“There’s not much to say about this rally, in which we had some problems. We can only take consolation from a top-five finish, but with some more luck we know we can be fighting higher up – and for the podium. It’s been good to be back on gravel, it’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t show a better performance. We can only keep on working in the hope that the tide will turn soon. Corsica is next, where I’m hopeful we can get better results.”
Dani Sordo 8th said:
“I am pleased to get to the end of this rally, but I’m trying to remain positive. It’s not been an easy weekend for us. We have battled against problems, which has not given us the confidence we needed to push hard. We had some complications with the wipers this morning, which was definitely interesting when it was raining on the first stage. We did all we could in the Power Stage, and I’m happy to take one point. We haven’t had much luck in Mexico so we have to just put it behind us and focus on the next round, Tour de Corse.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala 6th said:
“I set myself a target of the top five, so I just missed out on that. On the other hand, I don’t think that anyone could have predicted the difficulties that we all faced, so to finish sixth and score some Power Stage points as well is a real achievement, which still keeps us well-placed in both championships. The last day was actually the best day for me: we had a really good feeling with the car until we got caught out by a slippery section on the first stage, so we had a spin and lost 10 seconds. Without that, I think it could have been a really good time. All the signs of progress are there, which is the main thing. We’re here to learn, and we have done a lot of that over the past four days.”
Juho Hänninen 7th said:
“We can take away many positive things from this rally although for me it was not as enjoyable as it could have been because I was not feeling well from start to finish. Still, I am very happy to get to the end and score my first driver points this year. It was fun to be so close with Jari-Matti heading into the final day: we started it separated by just 0.3 seconds but he was faster than me today. We will take on board many things for the future from this and move forwards as a team, which is the most important thing. On this rally, I managed to avoid all the trees as well, so it’s good to see that even at my age I can still learn some new things! Although I did notice that a left-hand mirror was broken, so maybe I didn’t get away with it completely…”
Elfyn Evans 9th said:
“It’s been a tricky weekend with the penalty and then having to run first on the road, but overall I think we can be pretty happy with the weekend. This was our first time on gravel with these new cars and we’ve completed all of the mileage with good speed and three stage victories.
“It could have been a lot worse for sure and we’ve collected a lot of good knowledge which bodes well for the next gravel outing in Argentina.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
Stéphane Lefebvre 15th Place said:
“We have picked up a lot of experience this weekend. Even today, being eleventh on the road meant I had the same grip as the leaders and I was able to get a feel for what the car can do in these conditions. Well done to Kris, Paul and the whole team; this win is a special moment for Citroën Racing.”
Well, the reigning champion is back on top of the table, but three rounds into this year’s championship and three different winners as well, we are definitely looking at a more open fight for this year’s drivers’ championship.
The next round is the classic Tour de Corse over the weekend of the 6th to 9th of April. It’ll be the first fully tarmac event of the year with conditions that will be equal to all drivers.
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Sébastien Ogier 66 points
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 58 points
3. Ott Tanak 48 points
4. Dani Sordo 30 points
5. Thierry Neuville 28 points
6. Kris Meeke 27 points
7. Craig Breen 20 points
8. Elfyn Evans 20 points
9. Hayden Paddon 17 points
10. Stephane Lefebvre 10 points
11. Juho Hanninen 9 points
12. Andreas Mikkelsen 6 points
13. Jan Kopecky 4 points
14. Pontus Tidemand 3 points
15. Bryan Bouffier 1 point
16. Teemu Suninen 1 point
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. M-Sport WRT 103 points
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 67 points
3. Hyundai Motorsport 65 points
4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 55 points