SS1: Solberg leads in Mexico after street stage victory
Stage data: SS1, Guanajuato Street Stage (1.05 kilometres)
By 2010 Rally Mexico winning co-driver Daniel Elena: “This is not an easy stage because it’s very short and easy to make a mistake because it’s cobbled stones and you have a very cold tyre. After the ceremonial start there is no chance to warm up the tyre. There is one tunnel for about four corners where it is very slippery and easy to hit something. You have some rough areas on the outside of the corners too and high kerbs.”
It was crazy in there with so many people, we had a moment in the tunnel but we’re okay.
How the action unfolded:
Petter Solberg will take a slender lead of two-tenths of a second heading in to Friday’s first gravel stage.
The 2003 world champion was fastest on the Guanajuato Street Stage in his Petter Solberg World Rally Team Citroen DS3 WRC, emerging through the short tricky city course in a time of 53.2 seconds.
However, there was despair for American Ken Block, whose Ford Fiesta RS WRC suffered a suspected mechanical failure in between crossing the ceremonial start ramp and taking the stage start.
Cheered on by thousands of spectators, Solberg was 0.2s faster than Sebastien Loeb on the stage, held under the cover of darkness, despite reporting nudging a wall in the tunnel section. However, the damage was restricted to a scuffed tyre and Solberg was able to make it to the finish line. “It was crazy in there with so many people, we had a moment in the tunnel but we’re okay,” said Solberg.
French ace Loeb, last year’s Rally Mexico winner and the defending world champion, said: “There was a great atmosphere, the stage was good and it was a very nice show.”
Sebastien Ogier, who took the third fastest time in his DS3 WRC, said: “It’s not rally but it’s okay with a rally car running inside an amazing city. We just drove in the middle of the road absolutely no risk. The real rally starts in the morning.”
Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth quickest in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. He said he was delighted to have given the residents of Guanajuato a chance to see rally cars in anger through the city’s streets.
“It’s a nice stage for the people but it was very slippery although not as difficult as I expected,” said Latvala. “The fans are such an important part of the sport and these people may not have the chance to go to the [gravel] stages so it’s good they can see the cars in their home city.”
World championship leader Mikko Hirvonen was fifth fastest in his Fiesta: “It was very slippery and I was a bit all over the place but I’m sure the people were having a good time watching it,” said the Finn.
Rally Guanajuato Mexico resumes at 08:43hrs local time on Friday 4 March with the 26.01-kilometre Alfaro stage.
Petter Solberg survives a brush with a tunnel wall to lead overnight in Mexico as Ken Block hits trouble.