Ogier on course to equal Loeb’s winning record at Rally Mexico

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Five-time winner Sébastien Ogier catapulted himself into serious contention to equal Sébastien Loeb’s record six victories at Rally Mexico with an outright lead of 13.2 seconds on Friday evening.

The Toyota Yaris WRC driver won three of the day’s nine timed tests (SS8 was cancelled) and will restart from a favourable position on the road on Saturday.

Finland’s Teemu Suninen delivered an impressive performance in the leading Ford Fiesta WRC to hold second at the night halt, 20 seconds ahead of the current World Championship leader Elfyn Evans.

The Welshman managed to re-pass a resurgent defending World Champion Ott Tänak on the last short stage of the day. After losing time with damaged suspension in the morning, the Estonian had snatched third from Evans on stage nine but finished the day 0.2 seconds behind. Tänak won three of the day’s six gravel stages.

Finland’s Kalle Rovanperä overcame a slow puncture on the morning loop to hold fifth, setting the fastest time on SS12 for good measure, and Gus Greensmith rounded off the surviving World Rally Cars in sixth with the second of the Fords.

Seventh-placed Pontus Tidemand is looking for a hat-trick of WRC2 wins in México and the Swedish Škoda driver reached León with a lead of 51.1 seconds over Russian Nicolay Gryazin in the first of the factory Hyundai NG i20s. Brake issues dropped Ole-Christian Veiby to a distant third in the category.

FIA WRC3 front-runner Marco Bulacia and closest rival Emilio Fernández rounded off the top 10 in the overall standings in their respective Škoda Fabia and Citroën C3. Ricardo Triviño was the leading Mexican driver after earlier technical problems sidelined last year’s WRC2 winner Benito Guerra.

Overnight leader Thierry Neuville lost his grip on third place on the last of the day’s gravel stages when technical issues sidelined the Hyundai i20.

The second run through El Chocolate spelt the end of the road for both Ford’s Esapekka Lappi and Dani Sordo. Flames engulfed the rear of the Finn’s Fiesta WRC after the flying finish and the crew could only abandon ship and watch from a distance as fire destroyed the car on the subsequent gravel link section.

A stunned Lappi said: “On the stop line, when Janne (Ferm) opened the door, he said ‘the car is burning now’. I did not realise how big fire it is and I tried to still drive. I did not shut down (the fire). Luckily we are fine. We had no issues on the stage. I don’t know what caused that. I could not see the fire. All the tinted windows are blocking the view quite well and then I lost the brakes and realised it was still burning like hell. Then I jumped out. We did not know so much fire.”

Dani Sordo had lost over five minutes with a water hose issue to the radiator on the first run through the test in the morning and appeared to have recovered well with a fastest time and a useful pace after the afternoon restart. But the crew noticed smoke under the bonnet of the i20 after 26km of the seventh stage.

A fire extinguisher solved any serious concerns, but the Spaniard was going no further with terminal engine problems, potentially caused by the earlier overheating issue.

2020 Rally Mexico – positions after SS12:

  1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Toyota Yaris WRC1hr 23min 09.2sec
  2. Teemu Suninen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Fiesta WRC1hr 23min 22.4sec
  3. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Scott Martin (GBR) Toyota Yaris WRC1hr 23min 42.4sec
  4. Ott Tänak (EST)/Martin Järveoja (EST) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC1hr 23min 42.6sec
  5. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN)/Jonne Halttunen (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC1hr 23min 44.9sec
  6. Gus Greensmith (GBR)/Elliott Edmondson (GBR) Ford Fiesta WRC1hr 24min 26.0sec
  7. Pontus Tidemand (SWE)/Patrik Barth (SWE) Škoda Fabia Evo1hr 27min 25.9sec
  8. Nicolay Gryazin (RUS)/Yaroslav Fedorov (RUS) Hyundai NG i201hr 28min 17.0sec
  9. Marco Bulacia (BOL)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Citroën C31hr 29min 08.5sec
  10. Emilio Fernández (CHL)/Ruben Garcia (ARG) Škoda Fabia Evo1hr 31min 49.0sec