M-Sport World Rally Team’s Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are in contention for a top result at this weekend’s Rally Mexico – currently holding second position behind the wheel of their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.
With the opening loop cancelled due to a delayed return from Mexico City, the first gravel stages of the year were contested this afternoon and an early road position failed to halt Ogier’s impressive charge.
Despite having to sweep a clean line through the loose gravel, the four-time World Champion excelled and starts tomorrow’s stages a mere 20.9 seconds adrift of the lead.
Due to the lower average speeds on some newly introduced sections, reduced air flow left everyone with overheating issues of one form or another.
Thanks to his inspiring speed, vast experience and unrivalled mechanical sympathy, Ogier managed his performance brilliantly – keeping himself and the team in contention for another strong result.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“All credit must be given to the organisers for the spectacular start we witnessed in Mexico City yesterday evening. There are things to learn and it was a shame to lose some kilometres this morning, but I think in terms of expanding the sport and introducing new audiences it was a great success.
“Sébastien has been sensational today. He and Julien have done a fantastic job as the second car on the road and are now just 20 seconds adrift of the lead which is very impressive. We certainly didn’t expect to be this close whilst opening the road, but that just proves what a class act they are.
“Ott had a great start to the rally in Mexico City yesterday evening. He might be 30 seconds off the podium this evening, but if you know Ott, and if you know Rally Mexico, then you’ll know not to discount him!
“It was a shame to get the five minute penalty for Elfyn. We’re still not entirely sure what the issue that forced us to change the engine on Thursday evening was, but he has been very impressive today – setting a string of competitive times and claiming a stage victory on the final super special.
“I think everyone has had to deal with some overheating issues today. It’s probably fair to say that the slower sections which have been newly introduced caught us all slightly off guard, but the team will be flat-out looking at the data and I’m sure we can find a solution to improve the performance for tomorrow.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier knows what it takes to perform at Rally Mexico and is in contention for another strong result this weekend.
As the rally reconvened with five stages today, Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia didn’t let the disadvantage of an early road position halt their charge. Delivering an impressive drive through the loose gravel, only the tenth car on the road could match their speed.
Currently holding second place overall, the Frenchmen are just 20.9 seconds adrift of the rally lead with more than 200 kilometres left to contest in more consistent conditions.
SS1x: 10th (+5.3)
SS4: 2nd (+7.3)
SS5: 6th (+14.2)
SS6: 7th (+2.2)
SS7: 6th (+3.1)
SS8: 5th (+3.2)
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) 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.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Rally Mexico started strongly for Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja who were in joint second place at the close of two spectacular Super Special Stages in Mexico City yesterday evening.
As the sun reached its height above the Guanajuato mountain range, the Estonian had to manage his pace when experiencing a high temperature alarm but was able to minimise the time loss.
Returning his Fiesta safely back to service, Tänak currently holds fifth place overall. With all to play for, the determined Estonian shouldn’t be discounted when it comes to delivering another strong result.
SS1x: 5th (+2.8)
SS1y: 2nd (+0.1)
SS4: 7th (+1:18.8)
SS5: 7th (+18.8)
SS6: 4th (+1.8)
SS7: 5th (+1.5)
SS8: 6th (+3.5)
Ott Tänak (5th) 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.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Incurring a five minute penalty due to an engine change on Thursday evening, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were playing catch-up from the start but managed all that the Mexican fixture had to throw at them.
Climbing an impressive 12 positions throughout the course of the day, the Welshman claimed three second fastest times as well as a stage win through this evening’s final Super Special Stage.
SS1x: 6th (+3.4)
SS1y: 4th (+0.4)
SS4: 10th (+1:36.0)
SS5: 2nd (+5.7)
SS6: =2nd (+1.4)
SS7: 2nd (+0.2)
Elfyn Evans (12th) 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.”
ELSEWHERE IN THE M-SPORT TEAM
Elsewhere in the M-Sport team, Éric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas currently hold second place in the WRC 2 category.
As the action reconvened on gravel this afternoon, the Frenchmen set a stunning time through the mammoth El Chocolate stage – 17.6 seconds faster than their nearest rival.
The impressive time launched their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta R5 into the class lead, but the pairing had to settle for second position when encountering a rear-left suspension issue on the following speed test.
With more than 200 kilometres left to contest, there remains all to play for and the fight for the win remains as Camilli continues to prove how much progress he has made on gravel.
Éric Camilli (2nd WRC2) said:
“I have to be happy with my speed, but at the same time I want to win. We’re here to get the best result we possibly can, but that is life. It’s not our fault and it’s not the team’s fault, it’s just one of those things. This is a very rough rally and these things can happen.
“The fight is still there and if everything goes our way then I know that we have the speed to challenge for the victory. There’s still a long way to go and anything can happen, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow and to seeing what we can do.”
1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) + 1:01:33.8
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +20.9
3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +56.7
4. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:27.3
5. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:32.9
6. Stephane Lefebvre / Gabin Moreau (Citroen DS3 WRC) +1:52.8
7. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2:02.1
8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:30.8
9. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +3:24.3
10. Eric Camilli / Benjamin Veillas (Ford Fiesta R5) +3:59.7
12. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6:32.7