M-Sport drivers delivered strong performances throughout the field at Rally Mexico today. All official team drivers secured stage victories and the team are in a strong position heading into tomorrow’s final 54.90 kilometres.
Currently holding second place behind the wheel of their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are on course to secure their third podium in as many events.
Delivering a consistent run behind the wheel of their Fiesta WRCs, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja climbed to fourth place overall – poised to take advantage of any late dramas – whilst Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt climbed inside the overall top-ten.
In the WRC2 category, Éric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas delivered what has arguably been one of the best drives of their career.
Posting the fastest time through five of today’s stages, the Frenchmen transformed a 25 second deficit and were leading by 6.8 seconds before falling a mere two seconds adrift by the end of the day.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a fantastic day and it’s great to see all three cars posting fastest times. Once again, it’s a really good indication of where we are and it’s a big positive moving forward.
“In all honesty, we would have liked to have been a little bit closer to Kris [Meeke] at the end of the day, but we’re still very happy with the way things stand at the moment. If we can secure these results it’s certainly looking good from a championship point of view so let’s wait and see what tomorrow brings.
“In the WRC 2 category, it’s great to see Éric in the battle for victory. He was 25 seconds behind Pontus at the start of the day and up until the penultimate stage he was ahead. It’s great to see him getting his confidence back and we’re looking forward to seeing the battle continue tomorrow.
“It’s particularly exciting for us with the latest evolution of the Fiesta R5 waiting in the wings. If you look at the performance of Éric over the course of the rally, and think about the upgrades we have to come, it’s all looking very positive from a WRC 2 perspective as well.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Currently holding second place overall, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are on course to deliver another exceptional performance on their gravel debut with the Ford Fiesta WRC.
Quickly getting to grips with the Fiesta and the increased grip that comes without the disadvantage of running first on the road, the Frenchmen posted a sting of highly competitive times including the fastest time though the second pass of Media Luna (SS12) as well as the León Street Stage (SS17)
Driving well, they consolidated their second position. There remains a 30.9 second deficit to the lead, but with two arduous speed tests left to contest there remains all to play for.
SS9: 2nd (+3.2) SS10: 3rd (+3.6) SS11: 3rd (+0.8)
SS13: 4th (+18.2)
SS14: 2nd (+0.4)
SS15: 5th (+5.4)
SS16: 4th (+2.6)
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) 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.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Despite not enjoying the same road position as their nearest rivals, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja delivered a strong performance behind the wheel of their Fiesta WRC and climbed into fourth place overall.
Setting a string of consistent times, the Estonians posted a number of top-three times including the fastest time through the second pass of El Brinco (SS14).
With just over a minute separating Tänak from another podium result, he sits patiently in the wings – ready to take advantage of any last-minute dramas which have become synonymous with this event in recent years.
SS9: 5th (+13.6) SS10: 5th (+15.3) SS11: 5th (+2.2)
SS12: 3rd (+5.6)
SS13: 3rd (+12.6)
SS15: 10th (+7.0)
SS16: 9th (+5.2)
SS17: 7th (+2.4)
Ott Tänak (4th) 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."
EVANS AND BARRITT
Opening the road on the longest day of the rally, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were tasked with the arduous job of sweeping a clean line through the loose gravel.
Having incurred a five minute penalty for an engine change on Thursday evening, the pairing encountered the worst of the slippery conditions throughout today’s 157.57 competitive kilometres.
Keeping his head down and raising to the challenge, Evans climbed back into the overall top-ten and secured two stage victories through both passes of the Autódromo de León Super Specials (SS15 and SS16).
SS9: 9th (+31.6) SS10: 6th (+24.9) SS11: 9th (+10.1)
SS12: 7th (+19.8)
SS13: 7th (+36.6)
SS14: 8th (+9.8)
SS17: 4th (+0.8)
Elfyn Evans (9th) 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!”
ELSEWHERE IN THE M-SPORT TEAM
In the WRC 2 category, Éric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas delivered a superb performance behind the wheel of their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta R5.
Having fallen 25 seconds adrift of the lead with rear suspension issues yesterday evening, the French pairing were back up to speed today and proving just how much progress they have made on loose-surface terrain.
Winning five stages, Camilli overturned the deficit and was leading the way by 6.8 seconds before falling a mere two seconds adrift at the end of the day.
An enthralling battle is set to continue though tomorrow’s closing stages and the fight for the WRC 2 victory will be one of the most exciting in the field.
Éric Camilli (2nd WRC 2) said:
“I’m very, very happy with our performance. We’re pushing hard but feeling really comfortable in the car and it’s a great fight with Tidemand. We’re changing positions all the time and I think it will be a really close one tomorrow.
“It’s a very small gap at the moment, and I think it’s the big battle of the rally – something that we don’t often see here in Mexico! I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, and whatever the outcome, I think we can be really pleased with our rally.”
1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) + 2:47:33.3
2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +30.9
3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +1:10.5
4. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:32.9 +2:12.6
5. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +3:25.5
6. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:32.9
7. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:32.9
8. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +5:16.1
9. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6:32.7 +8:22.1
10. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +9:26.4