Leg 1 leader Petter Solberg (Subaru) and Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) enjoyed a fierce battle for supremacy with no more than a handful of seconds covering the duo for most of the day. Loeb took the lead on the opening stage but Solberg moved ahead...
Leg 1 leader Petter Solberg (Subaru) and Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) enjoyed a fierce battle for supremacy with no more than a handful of seconds covering the duo for most of the day. Loeb took the lead on the opening stage but Solberg moved ahead again on the next test. The Frenchman regained the advantage midway through the afternoon and extended it to 37.7sec after Solberg hit a rock early in the penultimate stage and broke his car's power steering and then spun on the final test. Loeb won six of the seven stages. Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) was much happier with his car's handling and maintained a steady third ahead of Dani Sordo (Citroen), despite almost hitting a herd of cows. Sordo's only problem was a spin on the penultimate test. Henning Solberg (Peugeot) opted for caution as he struggled with brake problems all day but is a comfortable fifth. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) restarted under SupeRally rules and climbed to 10th.
The final leg is the shortest of the rally, containing just 60.42km of competition in three stages. It begins with the 37.99km Leon test, the longest of the event, and ends with a third and final pass over the superspecial stage on the edge of the city which will be broadcast live on television. Drivers depart Leon at 07.45 and return for the finish ceremony at 12.30.
Kronos Total Citroen
After Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena won the stage of 'El Zauco' in the morning, they were fastest again this afternoon but only 0,3 s in front of Petter Solberg who still kept a tiny lead of 1,7 s overall. In the next stage, the French team-mates decided to give everything they could considering Petter was the quickest in the morning. On the third stage of the loop, the World Champion experienced a difficult start as he was 5 seconds slower than the Norwegian driver on the first split time. He explained.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "We really had to do our maximum, explained Seb. This is the reason why we started flat out..." They won that stage with a margin of 6,5 s and took the lead for 4,8 s. "In a long straight in sixth gear, a group of cows was standing in the middle of the road without moving. I had no other choice than braking really hard to go round them very slowly. I was scared that one of them would move suddenly." (Manfred Stohl who started on the road just in front of Seb had hit a cow. This explains the other animals gathered around the hurt one.)
Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: Retired.
Manfred Stohl was never really content throughout day one -- even though fourth intermediate place doesn't seem to mirror this emotion. It is the fact that he is 1:45 minutes behind Petter Solberg (Nor/Subaru) that causes grief for the 33-year-old OMV driver -- due to set-up troubles of the Peugeot 307 WRC. Hennig Solberg had once again to deal with brake problems during the afternoon of day one. The Norwegian OMV driver nevertheless reached fourth-best overall time on SS 4 -- followed by a set-back during the next special stage. Following a tyre damage the mousse didn't work perfectly anymore and Solberg/Menkerud had to change the tyre during the special stage. The incident cost them almost three minutes.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: Stohl: "We did some testing on gravel last week in France. Everything seemed all right then. Unfortunately conditions are completely different here. What had worked out in Monte Carlo and Sweden doesn't do so at all here in Mexico. Now we'll have to change the whole set-up in order to test for the forthcoming gravel rallies. The final place is no longer as important." On this note the complete car set-up had been changed at the service on Friday to a harder set-up for dampers, suspension and stabilisers. This already proved successful in the evening at the 4,42 kilometres long superstage in Leon. During the direct OMV Peugeot-duel with Henning Solberg, Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor achieved SS best-time. Stohl: "Of course, one can't really draw conclusions after such a short SS, but it seems to work out better. In any case it's a motivation boost." It was already the third first place in the Austrian's career, following his SS best-times in Monte Carlo.
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "First the tyre damage and then recurring brake troubles. We're happy to have reached the finish. I could have gone even faster on SS 4 but in the middle of the stage my drink bottle slipped below the pedals and it took some time to retrieve it. I sincerely hope that we'll solve the brake problems until Saturday." The OMV duo has fought its way back up to seventh place in the intermediate standings.
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen and team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen both hold points scoring positions after today's second leg of Rally Mexico. But neither Ford Focus RS World Rally Car was challenging for a podium place on this third round of the FIA World Rally Championship after Hirvonen crashed out of second place this morning to follow Gronholm's accident yesterday. Both must now rely on SupeRally. Hirvonen retired from the leg and will restart tomorrow's final day in 17th after accumulating a 35 minute penalty for not completing today's speed tests. Gronholm started today under SupeRally rules and climbed from 23rd to 11th. Both are currently in points positions for BP-Ford in the manufacturers' championship.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I didn't enjoy being first on the road again," said Gronholm. "It's a difficult rally to be in that position but there are so many rocks and stones and sometimes I just had to drive over them because there was nowhere else to go. Everything was OK until the last stage. I overshot a junction before halfway and had to reverse back onto the road. Then I came round a corner and found about 20 goats in the middle of the track. I managed to avoid all of them except one. And, worst of all, I came across some large rocks which had been placed across the road." The Finn opted for harder tyres this afternoon in the higher temperatures and posted top four times on all four tests. "They are difficult stages for the tyres but we had no problems at all with durability in the heat," he said. "Early in stage 12 I found a rock the size of a tyre in the road, with several smaller ones around it. I avoided the big one but had to drive over the smaller ones. I've not been testing anything, just driving to get as many kilometres in the car on gravel as I can."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: I thought I would attack a bit more today," said 25-year-old Hirvonen. "But I came over a crest and the car lifted a bit. As I landed a rear wheel hit the bank and the impact rolled us across the road and down into a deep ditch. I didn't have it marked as a jump in my pace notes and I simply came too fast over the crest."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
After a career-best sixth in the overall standings on the first day of Corona Rally Mexico, it was a contrast of fortunes for Matthew Wilson in the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team at the start of the second leg. The 19-year-old retired from the leg after making contact with a rock bank on the first stage of the day. Although Wilson and co-driver Michael Orr were uninjured, the suspension of their Ford Focus RS WRC 05 was damaged beyond roadside repair, meaning a return to service on a recovery vehicle, and to the rally for Sunday under SupeRally regulations. Wilson's impact came just a kilometre into the 25.23km El Zauco 1 stage, when a bump in the middle of a right-hand bend threw the Focus off the line and into the bank on the exit. A front wheel and suspension arms were damaged, while one of the mounts was partially ripped from the subframe. Wilson and Orr attempted to repair the car at the side of the road but the damage was such that they were unable to even remove the damaged wheel, let alone fashion a repair to get them to the end of the stage. The sister Ford Focus RS WRC 05 of Luis Perez Companc had a trouble-free day, with Companc and co-driver Jose Maria Volta ending the day in 13th place after this evening's Nextel Superspecial test.
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "About a kilometre into the first stage this morning we basically went wide coming out of a dip on a third-gear corner and hit a bank on the outside. We bounced along the bank which did quite a bit of damage to the steering. The steering arm, the cross-member and even up into the floor as well were all damaged. If the cross-member hadn't been bent we'd have got away with it, and at least got out of the stage and been able to change a steering arm. The corner had felt really good; we'd braked, turned in well, but it was just the way the dip and the compression went which flicked the car sideways. We took the corner at what we thought was the right speed, it didn't really seem like a big problem. Our biggest priority once we'd stopped was slowing the cars and making sure nobody hit us as we were in a bad place. We tried to fix the car but it's not easy when you're on uneven ground and you've got it jacked up and there are still cars going flat out past you. We had a good go; but it just wasn't to be."
Luis Perez-Companc/Jose Maria Volta: "I'm trying to drive safe. I want to finish the rally I don't want to have any problems. So many cars are having offs, so I'm just driving in the middle of the road and keeping the car safe. The last stages at the end of the loops were without brakes but in the first part I could go fast and it felt good. For tomorrow I like very much the stages, but I have liked all the stages on this rally. There are three runs, with one of 38km - where I'm really going to have to take care. I'm happy the car is in one piece, I hit it a lot as it is very, very rough, but it is good. I'm happy."
The Impreza WRC2006 proved its rally leading pace throughout the morning's stages when Petter Solberg was locked in an intense battle for first place with Sebastien Loeb. The pair swapped the lead several times until the sixth stage of the day when Solberg dropped 23 seconds to his rival after his power steering was damaged in a collision with a rock. Petter will start tomorrow's final Leg 37sec behind Loeb, with 60 competitive kilometres remaining. After crashing out of Friday's first Leg, Chris Atkinson restarted today under Superally regulations. The Australian moved back into the top ten with a string of top six times, including the third quickest time in SS12.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: Apologies, quote not supplied.
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: Not bad. But obviously running second on the road the surface is still quite loose. Marcus is doing good times but we're not too far behind and on the last one we took some time off him. We're fifth in the manufacturers' competition now and that's important for the team. They did a great job with the car last night and it's pretty much spot on. It took me a little time to get my confidence back after the roll but we've got a good rhythm now and we'll keep pushing to get the best result we can.
Red Bull-Skoda Team
The Red Bull-Skoda team are not competing in Mexico.