World champion Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) cruised through the final leg to score his first victory of the season and move to the top of the drivers' championship. He won by 48.9sec from Petter Solberg (Subaru) with Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) taking...
World champion Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) cruised through the final leg to score his first victory of the season and move to the top of the drivers' championship. He won by 48.9sec from Petter Solberg (Subaru) with Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) taking the final podium place. Fourth was a career best result for Dani Sordo (Citroen) on his first gravel event in a World Rally Car. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) climbed back into the drivers' points after his first-day roll. He finished seventh.
The championship returns to Europe for the first pure asphalt rally of the season later this month. The sweeping roads close to the rally base of Salou host Spain's Rally Catalunya - Costa Daurada on 23 - 26 March.
Kronos Total Citroen
Reigning world champions, Citroen and Sebastien Loeb, have taken the lead in the World Rally Championship following a thrilling fight to the finish between Loeb and Subaru's Petter Solberg in the Rally of Mexico at the weekend (3-5 March 2006). Loeb got off to a steady start on Friday sweeping the roads clean for the benefit of Petter Solberg amongst others, but still hung on grimly to limit the deficit to just a half a minute. The next step was to make up the time lost, reducing the gap to a combative Solberg. It was only on Saturday night, after SS13, that Seb found any sort of breathing space after very tightly fought battle with Subaru driver that turned the event into a two horse race. The final phase of the victory plan, which took place on Sunday, consisted of a precise control of the lead, a painstaking task in which Loeb excels. All victories taste sweet, but for Seb - sheltering under a sombrero at the finish - this one was special. The same joy was shared by Dani Sordo, who finished just off the podium in fourth place in his first gravel event in the Citroen Xsara WRC.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "To start with, it's the first win that I have the pleasure of sharing with the Kronos team," he explained. "Also, I've won a rally that has not been kind to me in the past. Finally, it's been a win that I've had to go out and grab by the scruff of the neck. The tight battle makes this victory really worth it. Also, it's put us at the top of the championship. In other words, everything is good!"
Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: Retired.
Dani Sordo/Marc Marti: "How do I describe it?" he commented. "Fourth place is fantastic in itself. Added to that is the satisfaction of having had a good feeling with the Xsara on gravel, setting some decent times, and having made only one mistake - a spin at the start of the rally. Also, I have the knowledge that next I am going to drive the Xsara on asphalt on my home rally - the surface on which I have most experience. So how do you think I feel!"
Manfred Stohl had had a lead of 32,2 seconds over Daniel Sordo (Spa/Citroen) at the end of leg two. Normally a safe time cushion, yet it bothered the 33-year-old OMV driver a bit for he only had a soft rubber mixture at his disposal for the final leg. But a few kilometres into the first special stage showed that there was no reason to worry. The Spaniard wasn't able to put pressure on Stohl. After only 5,3 kilometres the Austrian had gained another 5,2 seconds -- which became 27,4 seconds at the end of the 38 kilometres long "royal" stage of the Corona Rally Mexico. Thus he had a lead of almost one minute over Sordo for the last 22 kilometres. A lead the OMV driver wouldn't yield at his 97th WRC assignment. He took the third podium place of his career, the first this year. A final highlight was his best time on the superstage. Henning Solberg topped off the impressive result of the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team with fifth place -- in spite of having to deal with brake problems throughout the rally. After each special stage he was only able to bring the Peugeot to a stop by employing the handbrake. But the effort payed off, nevertheless: five points for the manufacturer's WRC and four points for the driver's World Championship. This result brought the Norwegian OMV duo Solberg/Menkerud up to eighth palce in the FIA WRC intermediate standings.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "All in all I'm obviously satisfied with the result. Still, the time difference to the top two does bother me. We'll have a lot of work to do to find the right gravel set-up. But a place on the podium is great in any case. This time I had luck on my side, especially since I didn't expect too much here in Mexico."
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "Starting from day two all I did was trying to get the car across the finishing line. It would have been useless to attack since I had continous brake problems. I was far enough ahead of sixth place but way too much behind fourth place. In the end I'm satisfied with fifth place. Even more so since this was my first start here."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen and team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen both claimed points finishes on the Rally Mexico which ended today. Gronholm recovered from a first day crash to finish eighth in his Ford Focus RS World Rally Car while Hirvonen bounced back from rolling yesterday to take 15th in a similar car. The result maintains the team's record of scoring points on every world rally since the start of the 2002 season. Both BP-Ford pairings retired from the leg after their accidents but returned the following day under SupeRally regulations to complete this demanding three-day event, the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship 2006. Gronholm fought back from 22nd to claim drivers' and manufacturers points while Hirvonen secured the final manufacturers' point. Ford now lies second in the standings and Gronholm holds second in the drivers' championship.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "We've enjoyed really good reliability and speed from the car on our first gravel event - it was the driver that made the mistake," said the 38-year-old Finn. "I've felt confident here and that is a good sign for the other gravel events this season. I would have liked to have had a good fight with Loeb and Solberg and I could have taken a good result without that mistake. I'm sure we can respond on the next two asphalt rallies because the Focus has a good history on that surface."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: Twenty-five-year-old Hirvonen started this morning in 17th. His aim was to preserve the final manufacturers' point for BP-Ford and he took no risks to achieve that. "I'm happy with my speed this weekend but I just need to put my mistakes away," he said. "I realise now that I don't need to take any risks to set good stage times. I need to be a bit calmer. But at least we know that the Focus RS is competitive on gravel. It has been perfect - it just doesn't run very well on its roof!"
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
A fourth fastest time in a World Rally Championship stage, a career-best sixth placing in the overall standings, a day-ending off just a kilometre into the first stage of leg two and a brake-binding problem slowing him on the final day. Corona Rally Mexico delivered a roller-coaster of emotions for Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team driver Matthew Wilson on the 19-year-old's first ever visit to Mexico. Wilson made a superb start to his third rally of 2006, the third round of the World Rally Championship. The young Brit was immediately into the groove on day one's treacherous and technical gravel stages. Wilson and co-driver Michael Orr adopted a cautious approach, yet their times were firmly in the top ten on every test. By the end of the day, Wilson and Orr sat sixth in the overall standings, a best-ever for Wilson and for any competitor so young in the World Rally Championship.
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "It's a bit frustrating to end the rally with problems but the good thing is on Friday we showed a bit of our pace and if we can do that on the next gravel rally I'll be happy. I didn't expect to be sixth at the second service on Friday, that's for sure. It was encouraging that were able to go quick on the first run through stages, it means the notes are working. The corner which caught us out on Saturday 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. 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: "After my off I tried to drive safe. I wanted to finish the rally I didn't want to have any more problems. Thankfully there were no problems, the plan was to come home all in one piece so I'm happy. It's very good getting the two points for the team, very good. I'm looking forward now to my next rally in Argentina as with each rally I'm getting a better feel for the car so I hope in Argentina I go better."
This afternoon Petter Solberg kick-started his campaign for the 2006 drivers' title by finishing second on Rally Mexico and collecting his first championship points of the season. Solberg blazed through the final three stages of the rally and set the fastest time on the penultimate test, clearly demonstrating the rally winning potential of the new Subaru Impreza WRC2006. Chris Atkinson secured a double points finish for the team. The Australian started the Leg in tenth position, moved up three places in the first stage and maintained the position until the finish.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "I am very, very happy with the result of this rally. Of course we set out to win but when that wasn't possible we kept pushing for second. I went flat out on Leg one to get a gap and it was unlucky to pick up the problem on the second day, but I tried hard to keep the time loss to a minimum. It was always going to be difficult to make up the time, but the car was very fast with everything working well. We showed that there is definitely more to come. It's good to finally get some points and now I want more. It will be close and I'm going to give it everything."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "The rally has been pretty good for us. Of course it's unfortunate that we hit the rock and then had the problem after that, otherwise I think we could have made the podium. We proved that the pace is right, it's just unfortunate we weren't able to translate it into a better result. It's a tough sport. It's some consolation that we got seventh overall and some useful points for me and for Subaru. We can take plenty of positives from this rally."
Red Bull-Skoda Team
The Red Bull-Skoda team are not competing in Mexico.
Less than five months after its last visit to the country, the WRC returns to Spain for the fourth round of the championship, Rallye de Catalunya. The first sealed surface event of the season takes place in the Tarragona region of southern Spain and is the quickest asphalt rally on the calendar. Run in the mountains around Salou, with a service park in the Port Aventura theme park, this is the closest that rallying gets to circuit racing, with wide, flowing stages, high-speed corners and smooth asphalt.