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Sebastien Ogier gives Ford a first victory in rally Mexico since 2004

Written by  Mar 11, 2018

Five-time FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier stormed to the top of the Drivers’ Championship standings with an impressive fourth victory in Rally México.

The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver and co-driver Julien Ingrassia began the final day with a lead of 35.9 seconds and were even able to conserve their tyres for a final push for additional points on the Power Stage.

Ogier’s 42nd WRC success by the winning margin of 1min 13.6sec was a second for the Ford Fiesta WRC on gravel and, more importantly, marked the first win for the Blue Oval since Estonian Markko Martin won on the event’s debut in the WRC back in 2004 at the wheel of a Ford Focus WRC 03.

Ogier said: “Fantastic. It’s a special place for me every year - seven podiums and four victories. I knew it would be tough. Our chance was small and we never gave up. We progress a lot since last year and the car has progressed on gravel. We are in a good position now for the next rally in Corsica.”

Dani Sordo has a limited programme of events with the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team this season and held the lead at the end of day one. A puncture cost him valuable time on Saturday, but the Spaniard battled back and was rewarded with second overall when Kris Meeke flipped his C3 WRC on to its side on the first stage of the final morning and lost 45 seconds. Despite a flat tyre on the final stage, Sordo beat Meeke by 15.6 seconds.

Meeke, the winner in México last year, now has two unfortunate incidents to his name on the final morning in as many years. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver was left rueing the hapless error that dropped him to third place after 22 special stages, which were mainly run across the sinuous gravel tracks in the hills around León and Guanajuato.

“I feel a bit stupid to be honest,” said Meeke. “I had the car and the road position to win the rally and I didn’t do the job. I have never been so disappointed with a third place before.”

Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen delivered a consistent performance to claim valuable Manufucturers’ Championship points for fourth overall and claimed one fastest stage time to boot.

Nine-time World Champion Sébastien Loeb thoroughly enjoyed his return to the WRC and led during the morning loop on Saturday until he made the mistake of stopping to change a punctured tyre rather than risk finishing the stage on the flailing rubber. It was a superb return to the series for the winner of 78 WRC events, nonetheless, and proved that the C3 WRC driver still has the pace to match and beat his younger rivals. 

“It has been great to be back in the WRC on a nice rally like México,” said the six-time event winner. “I enjoyed the new generation of World Rally Car a lot. It was a good moment when we took the lead and a very bad one when we changed the wheel!”

Thierry Neuville’s goal at the start of the week was to leave México with the championship lead. He arrived in León with a 10-point advantage, but fate dictated that he was forced to open the road on all three days and the job of road sweeper was a costly one. The Belgian brought the third Hyundai to the finish in sixth place and slipped behind Ogier in the championship standings.

It was a difficult event for the Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team. The three Yaris WRCs struggled for the second year with engine temperature issues, but alternator failure meant that Jari-Matti Latvala could only finish eighth overall and a turbo breakage forced Ott Tänäk to miss most of day three. Esapekka Lappi was sidelined after an accident on Friday and returned to finish outside the top 10. Toyota had the consolation of the first and third quickest times on the Power Stage for Tänäk and Latvala.

Nine of the 11 WRC drivers claimed at least one fastest stage time during the event with Ogier and Tänäk topping the list with five apiece.

Pontus Tidemand began the final morning with a WRC 2 category lead of 5min 42.6sec in his Škoda Fabia R5 and maintained his composure to confirm a second successive victory in México and move to the top of the championship standings. The Swede finished seventh overall and his winning margin over England’s Gus Greensmith was 6min 44.6sec. Greensmith’s performance was rewarded with a ninth-placed finish in the overall rankings.

Tidemand said: “It has been a fantastic rally for us. We had a perfect car and the team did a perfect job. A big thanks to the people who helped me and pushed me.”

Chile’s Pedro Heller and Bolivian rookie Marquito Bulacia completed the top four and Heller rounded off the overall top 10.

Great Britain’s Tom Williams enjoyed his first taste of rallying in México in his WRC 3 Ford Fiesta, while Francisco Name led a depleted Mexican contingent in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10.

Rally Guanajuato México 2018 – positions after SS22:

  1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Ford Fiesta WRC 3hrs 53min 58.0sec           
  2. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Carlos del Barrio (ESP) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3hrs 55min 11.6sec
  3. Kris Meeke (GBR)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Citroën C3 WRC 3hrs 55min 27.2sec
  4. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Anders Jaeger-Synnevaag (NOR) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC3hrs 55min 46.4sec           
  5. Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Daniel Elena (FRA) Citroën C3 WRC 3hrs 56min 32.6sec
  6. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 4hrs 03min 11.0sec
  7. Pontus Tidemand (SWE)/Jonas Andersson (SWE) Škoda Fabia R5 4hrs 04min 32.7sec
  8. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC 4hrs 09min 45.1sec
  9. Gus Greensmith (GBR)/Craig Parry (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 4hrs 11min 17.3sec
  10. Pedro Heller (CHL)/Pablo Olmos (ARG) Ford Fiesta R5 4hrs 18min 26.1sec

Rally leaders

SS1          Thierry Neuville

SS2          Kris Meeke

SS3-10    Dani Sordo

SS11-13 Sébastien Loeb

SS14-22 Sébastien Ogier

Stage winners

SS1          Thierry Neuville

SS2          Kris Meeke

SS3          Dani Sordo

SS4          Dani Sordo

SS5          Teemu Suninen                    

SS6          Kris Meeke                           

SS7          Sébastien Loeb

SS8          Sébastien Loeb/Ott Tänäk 

SS9          Ott Tänäk

SS10       Ott Tänäk/Sébastien Ogier

SS11       Sébastien Loeb

SS12       Kris Meeke

SS13       Sébastien Ogier

SS14       Sébastien Ogier

SS15       Sébastien Ogier

SS16       Sébastien Ogier

SS17       Dani Sordo/Kris Meeke

SS18       Kris Meeke

SS19       Andreas Mikkelsen

SS20       Jari-Matti Latvala

SS21       Ott Tänäk

SS22       Ott Tänäk

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