SÉBASTIEN OGIER (FORD/MICHELIN) OVERCAME THE WEEKEND’S SEARING HEAT TO CLAIM THE FOURTH RALLY MEXICO VICTORY OF HIS WRC CAREER WHICH KICKED OFF IN THE SIERRA OF THE SAME EVENT 10 YEARS AGO. HE WAS JOINED ON THE PODIUM IN LEON BY DANI SORDO (HYUNDAI/MICHELIN) AND KRIS MEEKE (CITROËN/MICHELIN). SÉBASTIEN LOEB (CITROËN/MICHELIN) CELEBRATED HIS WORLD CLASS COMEBACK AFTER THREE YEARS AWAY WITH FIFTH SPOT AND EVEN APPEARED IN THE LEAD AT ONE STAGE.
Like last year, Sébastien Ogier was not compelled to sweep Day 1’s stages in Mexico since, this time, that task fell to the pre-start championship leader Thierry Neuville. Although still handicapped, the Ford/Michelin driver managed to stay in touch with the front-runners after Friday’s action which notably saw strong performances by Dani Sordo and WRC returnee Sébastien Loeb who both benefitted from late start positions.
Sordo pushed home his advantage to score two stage victories and complete the day with a cushion of 7.2 and 11 seconds over Loeb and Ott Tanak (Toyota/Michelin) respectively.
Despite a three-year absence from the WRC and the fact that his last Mexico appearance dated back to 2012, Loeb turned on the speed on Saturday to emerge at the top of the leaderboard after posting the quickest effort on SS11.
At the age of 44, the nine-time world champion was clearly targeting a 79th world championship success but, on SS14, he dropped more than two minutes after stopping to change a wheel. Sordo suffered a similar misadventure on the same test but chose not to swap wheels. Thanks to the strength of his Michelin LTX Force tyres, he succeeded in conceding just 30 seconds.
These two incidents, along with engine woes for Tanak, promoted Ogier and Meeke to first and second places. Their ensuing battle was ultimately settled in the Ford driver’s favour when the event’s 2017 winner span on Saturday’s SS15. The Briton then lost third place to Sordo after tipping his car over on Sunday’s SS20.
Ogier went on to secure his fourth Rally Mexico win which has put him back at the top of the provisional Drivers’ standings, ahead of Thierry Neuville (Hyundai/Michelin). As anticipated, the Belgian’s role as chief ‘road sweeper’ cost him a considerable amount of time, while technical troubles prevented him from aiming for any higher than sixth, behind Loeb and team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen (4th).
All three Toyota Yaris WRC/Michelin drivers were hit by problems. Tanak was running third when he was forced to limp out of SS11 at low speed, while Jari-Matti Latvala ended up eighth. Esapekka Lappi had an ‘off’ on Friday afternoon but was able to re-join. Elfyn Evans (Ford/Michelin) crashed out for good the same day.
Skoda/Michelin finished on top in WRC2 once more thanks to Pontus Tidemand who also pocketed seventh overall. The Swede was joined on the class’s podium by Ford Fiesta R5/Michelin drivers Gus Greensmith and Pedro Heller.