CITROËN SETS ITS SIGHTS ON A ONE-TWO
Featuring over 180 kilometres of timed stages, day two of Rally Mexico saw Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena put themselves in a very strong position to win the event. In second place, some 36.2s behind their team-mates, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are well-placed to provide Citroën Total World Rally Team with its first one-two of the season.
Disputed on roads around León, the stages held on Saturday morning provided one of the rally’s major challenges: by completing two runs on Ibarrilla (29.90km) and Otates (41.88km), the crews and the machines were going to have to demonstrate some staying power! As has often been the case in Mexico since 2006, the man to beat was Sébastien Loeb. First of all, the eight-time World Champion swept aside his rivals on Otates 1, before doing much the same on Ibarrilla 2. After the first four of the day’s stages, Seb had extended his lead over Mikko Hirvonen to 28.7s.
I really had to hang on in there to set a good time.
“I pushed really hard on Otates 1 because Mikko had closed the gap a little on the previous stage. It wasn’t easy, I had to remain focussed on a road which is pretty relentless for the drivers. The bends just keep coming, one after another, and I really had to hang on in there to set a good time. I didn’t need to worry about looking after my tyres – Michelin has provided us with the perfect rubber for this surface. Obviously, the situation has worked out favourably for us. We should be able to use our lead to control the race whilst bearing in mind that an unforeseen incident could still change the course of the rally.”
With Jari-Matti Latvala having lost time, Mikko Hirvonen could afford to relax a little and drive a controlled rally in second place. “I eased off a little after I found out that Jari had had problems. There was no point in trying to catch Seb. Yesterday, when I pushed really hard, he was still one or two seconds quicker than me. I need to build up more experience to be able to compete with him. It’s really a matter of confidence. The DS3 WRC is very comfortable to drive, I'm constantly surprised by its capacities.”
After a second service, the crews had to complete a loop including two runs on Comanjilla (17.91km). Without taking any unnecessary risks, the Citroën Total World Rally Team crews managed to negotiate the tricky sections and made it back to León without incident.
“We were especially careful because there were a lot of rocks on the racing line. Some of them were put there deliberately. In spite of that, the day went well and we didn’t have any problems. There’s still a biggie to come tomorrow, with a 54 kilometre-long stage,” said Séb. Mikko also ran into something unexpected on SS20: “We came across one of the half-axles off Novikov’s car. It was fairly surprising and I couldn’t avoid it altogether. Fortunately, the DS3 WRC is pretty solid and we were able to continue without losing any time. But it just goes to show that we must be careful right to the end!”
“First of all, I think we have to stress the reliability of our cars, which have had no problems despite the extreme conditions,” concluded Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “Our drivers managed the day perfectly, and now head into the final day with a comfortable lead. But tomorrow’s 54km stage might yet spring a few surprises. So that we can fully enjoy the end of the rally, we hope that we won’t see any more rocks put on the racing line by illintentioned people. Their actions are dangerous for the crews and the spectators.”