The day one of Rally Guanajuato Corona provided Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson with the opportunity to serve notice of their intentions. In their Citroën DS3 WRC, they lie second overall.
Expectations were high in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team camp ahead of today’s leg as the team returned to gravel stages for the first time this season.
As Thursday evening’s brief introduction was contested on tarmac, it wasn’t until the morning loop in the Sierra de Guanajuato that the crews were finally able to get their first taste of competitive action on the most commonly used surface in the WRC. Very quickly, Mads Østberg was on the pace of the leaders. In fact, the Norwegian grabbed first place in the overall standings after the 44 kilometre-long El Chocolate stage (SS3).
For Kris Meeke, this first leg was above all else the chance to learn about the specific features of the Mexican event. Initially cautious, the Northern Irishman found the right level of pace and managed to move into fourth position without taking any risks.
On Las Minas (SS8), however, he broke part of the suspension on his car after hitting a rock. Like Kris, two other WRC drivers were unable to complete this first leg.
Saturday’s leg features seven stages. Crews will set off at 8.30am from León, covering a total of 323 kilometres, 170 of which will be timed sections. After SS18, the competitors will drive their cars into parc ferme at 7.48pm.
Mads Østberg: “To be honest, I’m really pleased with the start I’ve made to this rally. The first loop went particularly well. We tried to adapt the set-up for the changing road conditions in the afternoon. It didn’t really work, but you have to bear in mind that this is our first gravel rally with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. We still need more experience. But overall, it’s been a very encouraging start which augurs well for the rest of the rally!”
Kris Meeke: “My strategy was pretty much the same as in Sweden. I drove at my own pace without worrying too much about the times the other drivers were setting. On some stages, I was fairly comfortable although there was a lot of dust. The roads were also very slippery. On SS8, we hit a rock on a bend. The suspension arm broke. We tried to continue but we decided it was better to stop so that we could rejoin tomorrow in better shape.”
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Mads made an excellent start to the day. He feels comfortable in the Citroën DS3 WRC and these are the sorts of conditions in which he is very competitive. He lost some time in the second loop though a lack of experience with the car. But the miles covered will be add to his experience as he learns more and more. As regards Kris, he should be able to rejoin tomorrow under Rally 2 rules. It’s important that he makes the most of each stage to keep learning about this rally.”