Ogier leads heading into the second leg of Rally Mexico.
The fastest street sweepers in the world drive a Volkswagen. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) produced energetic displays at the wheel of their Polo R WRCs to overcome the disadvantage of having to open the route at the Rally Mexico. The conditions improved with every World Rally Car that followed them onto the Mexican roads, sweeping them clear of the layer of loose gravel. The second-placed pair in the World Championship, Ogier/Ingrassia, clocked the fastest time on seven of the first eleven special stages to lead the field by 26.1 seconds. World Championship leaders Latvala/Anttila, who were first onto the special stages, currently occupy the third and final podium position after day one of the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
“The day went much better than expected. I thought it would be much more difficult due to our early, and thus unfavourable, starting position," said Ogier.
"The gravel is extremely slippery, plus it is very hot in the cockpit – it is very easy to make mistakes. First place is more than we could possibly have expected, and puts us in a great position to win here again."
Citroën driver Kris Meeke retired after contact that knocked his rear wheel assembly askew.
“Everything was coming easy and then, on a narrow second gear corner over a crest, as I went back on the throttle the car stepped out a little bit. There was a little impact - I didn’t even see what I hit. Unfortunately something dislodged at the back and the wheel was waving about. We got very close to the finish and the wheel parted company. I was a little bit unlucky with what happened in a very, very narrow section. But it only takes a little touch and you can damage something on this rally and as much as I didn’t want to get caught out, I have been.”
The route on the opening day of the rally took the competitors from about 1,800 to 2,800 metres above sea level. With temperatures around the 30-degree mark, the organisers threw in the first real toughie of the rally in the form of the 44.03-kilometre “El Chocolate” special stage, which the drivers had to tackle twice. After eleven of 22 stages, Volkswagen has 17 top-three times, an impressive eight of which produced stage wins.
The Mexican debut of Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) in the third Polo R WRC came to a premature end on day one of the rally. Lying second overall, the duo skidded off the road on the third special stage, damaging the suspension on their World Rally Car in the process. Mikkelsen/Markkula will return to action on Saturday under Rally2 regulations.
“I was actually feeling good and had a good rhythm. Everything was going well. But then came a left-hander that got a little tighter than I expected. I made the mistake two days ago during the Recce," said Mikkelsen.
"My pace notes for this point were probably a bit too optimistic. I skidded, found myself sideways on and hit a stone with the rear-right of the car. That was enough to take the wheel clean off, and that was that for today. Crashes like that make you realise that there is no substitute for experience."
Volkswagen Motorsport and WRC.com