M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have overcome an unfavourable road position to stay in the mix for a strong result at this weekend’s Rally Mexico.
Second in the championship – and therefore second on the road – the pairing were hampered by some of the loosest conditions but that didn’t stop them taking the fight to their rivals.
Currently holding fifth position behind the wheel of their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC, the Frenchmen are just 15 seconds adrift of the top-three and in with a chance of securing another strong haul of points.
Elsewhere in the team, the speed of both Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen went unrewarded.
Evans had been in third place before a high-speed roll put him out of the event, and Suninen posted his first fastest stage time of the year before having to retire for the day.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“When you consider his road position, there is no question that Sébastien’s performance has been fantastic today. It’s a bit frustrating to think that he is still only going to start as the fourth car on the road tomorrow – but one thing is for sure, he’ll be pushing for the best possible result.
“I think Teemu was a bit disappointed not to be closer to the pace this morning, but we all need to remember that this is only his fourth rally with the top-specification Fiesta – and in rallying experience is everything.
“It was great to see him secure a fastest stage time through the León Super Special, but he made a mistake this afternoon which resulted in some damage to the cooling package. That brought an early end to his day, but the important thing is that we can get him back on the stages tomorrow.
“Elfyn and Dan were looking really strong before they suffered a high-speed roll that put them out of the rally. Considering the speed of the accident the small amount of damage was remarkable, but they suffered a massive impact immediately before which Dan took the brunt of.
“After medical checks, it was discovered that he had some mild concussion and in those circumstances the safety of the crew has to come first. The most important thing now is to ensure that they are both match fit for Corsica.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia delivered an impressive performance through the first gravel stages of the year – overcoming the disadvantage of their difficult road position to stay in touch with the fight at the front.
Despite having to contend with some of the loosest conditions, the Frenchmen delivered a near-perfect day. Setting a string of highly competitive stage times, they regularly had the measure of the later starters who benefitted from more traction on a cleaner road.
With two days of competition left to contest, there remains all to play for and the pairing have every chance of securing another strong haul of points for their championship defence.
SS1: 3rd (+2.0)
SS2: 4th (+6.6)
SS3: 7th (+19.6)
SS4: 8th (+10.3)
SS5: 7th (+0.7)
SS6: 2nd (+0.3)
SS7: 6th (+12.9)
SS8: 4th (+3.3)
SS9: 2nd (+1.0)
Sébastien Ogier (5th) said:
“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.”
SUNINEN AND MARKKULA
Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula might be contesting Rally Mexico for the first time with the top-specification Fiesta, but that didn’t stop them posting the fastest time through the León Street Stage (SS5).
Unfortunately, the pairing were unable to continue their progress through the afternoon – damaging the suspension of their Fiesta on SS6 before running wide and damaging the cooling package on SS7.
With their Fiesta repaired, the Finns will restart tomorrow – keen to gain further knowledge of this unique event.
SS1: 11th (+4.9)
SS2: 9th (+14.2)
SS3: 9th (+28.9)
SS4: 10th (+17.6)
SS6: 13th (+2:28.7)
Teemu Suninen said:
“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.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt made a strong start to this year’s Rally Mexico – sitting in podium position just 15 seconds adrift of the lead after the third speed test.
But as the crews made their way to the first pass of Ortega (SS4), the luckless Brits were caught out by a series of compressions. Thrown sideways, they lost the rear and rolled their Fiesta.
The pairing checked in with the medical team on their return to service where Barritt was advised not to continue. Both driver and co-driver are okay, but safety remains paramount and the decision was taken to ensure they get the necessary rest before the next event.
SS1: 9th (+4.6)
SS2: 5th (+6.8)
SS3: 2nd (+11.1)
SS4: 21st (+2:39.6)
SS5: 9th (+1.9)
Elfyn Evans said:
“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.”
1. Dani Sordo / Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:46:17.3
2. Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Citroen C3 WRC) +7.8
3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11.8
4. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) +24.2
5. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +31.0
6. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +32.1
7. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:00.0
8. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +5:01.1
9. Gus Greensmith / Craig Parry (Ford Fiesta R5) +8:06.0
10. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +8:06.9
17. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +24:08.6