WRC Ogier and Loeb embroiled in epic duel in Rally Guanajuato Mexico

RALLY GUANAJUATO MEXICO, March 3rd-6th, 2011
2011 FIA World Rally Championship, round 2

For immediate release
Friday, March 4th, 2011


· Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen climbs to third for Ford Abu Dhabi team
· Sixth stage woe for Petter Solberg; punctures for Østberg and Latvala
· Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah extends his S2000 WRC lead after day one

LEÓN (Mexico): Friday’s nine special stages of Rally Guanajuato Mexico 2011 developed into a two-horse race between the Citroën DS3 WRC duo of Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier. Overnight leader Petter Solberg slotted into third position before losing his podium place in the sixth stage with a niggling electrical problem.

The smallest of margins separated Ogier and Loeb throughout the day, but Loeb measured his pace carefully through the crucial eighth stage to ensure that he stayed 1.6s behind Ogier when the running order for day two was defined before the two remaining super special stages.

“Second on the road now for tomorrow and that is good,” said Loeb. “It has been a perfect day. Seb (Ogier) has been very fast and I have been pushing on the limit to stay on his pace.”

Ford Abu Dhabi’s Mikko Hirvonen overcame the disadvantage of running first on the road to hold third overall after 10 stages. Britain’s Matthew Wilson was fourth until the seventh stage when mechanical problems cost him his position. Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala overtook Russia’s Evgeny Novikov on the last gravel stage to take fourth overall.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah continued his superb run of form by dominating the S2000 category in his Ford Fiesta. He completed eight stages with a 24.2s lead over Estonia’s Ott Tanak. “It has been a good day, no problems and no risks,” said Al-Attiyah. “Just using our experience to keep the pressure on. My times are improving. I will keep on pushing.”

Day 1

Three minute intervals were used at the start of the day and, despite sweeping the stage surface clean, Hirvonen tried to take advantage of the lack of dust by posting a target time of 15m 46.5s through the opening 26.01km of the Alfaro special.

It was to no avail and the Finn quickly found himself passed by all his major rivals, with stage winner Ogier eclipsing his time by 15.8s to move 0.2 seconds ahead of Loeb in the overall standings. Munchi’s Rally Team’s Federico Villagra pulled a wheel off his Ford Fiesta and was forced out of the day’s action.

Ogier was again quickest in Ortega and extended his advantage to 1.6s over Loeb, as Petter Solberg maintained third and a clean sweep of the podium places for Citroën. Østberg punctured, lost four minutes and slipped out of the top 10.

Latvala suffered a slow puncture in the fourth El Cubilete special and lost fourth position to Hirvonen, but Ogier maintained a 1.2s overall lead despite losing the stage win to Loeb. The seven-time FIA World Rally Champion set the fastest time in the León street stage and reached service at the Poliforum with a 1.3s advantage over Ogier. Petter Solberg, Hirvonen and Henning Solberg completed the top five.

Al-Attiyah continued where he left off on Thursday night by controlling proceedings in the S2000 WRC category. The Qatari extended his advantage over Tanak to 5.7s after SS2, where Finland’s Juho Hänninen spun, lost reverse gear and a precious two minutes. Al-Attiyah found himself 10.2s in front of Tanak through Ortega and increased his lead over the Estonian to 11.5s at the midday service.

Ogier accidentally missed the regroup before service B and headed out into the second loop of stages with the threat of an end-of-day time penalty hanging over his head. With nothing to lose, he beat Loeb by 1.2s to regain a 0.5s lead but Petter Solberg lost third overall when he struggled to the stage finish with no power and the smell of fuel emanating from his engine.

His demise handed third to Hirvonen and promoted Wilson to fourth with Novikov a mere 6.8s further behind in fifth. Al-Attiyah extended his advantage in the S2000 category over Tanak to 27.2s, who complained about a loss of power at the end of SS6. Estonian Karl Kruude had already fallen by the wayside with reported engine oil pressure woes.

Ogier moved 2.8s ahead of Loeb through SS7 and headed towards the re-run of El Cubilete facing the prospect of running first on the road on Saturday regardless of the outcome of the late night Stewards’ meeting. Wilson stopped on the second Ortega stage and lost fourth position.

Ogier continued to push on the last gravel stage that would determine the starting order for day two. Loeb was ahead of his colleague at the split timing point but the defending champion eased his pace over the final kilometres to ensure he remained in second position at the end of the gravel stages by the narrow margin of just 1.6s.

Tomorrow (Day 2)

Tomorrow (Saturday) teams will tackle a further nine special stages beginning with the first of two passes through the Ibarilla test, the longest of the entire rally at 29.90km, at 08.54hrs.This is followed by the first of two runs through Duarte and Derramadero and a repeat of the short Leon street stage at 12.11hrs.

The longer gravel stages are repeated on Saturday afternoon and the competitive action reaches a conclusion from 19.43hrs with two passes through the 2.21km super special.

Positions after SS10 – End of Day 1 (20.32hrs):
1. Sébastien Ogier (F)/Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroën DS3 WRC 1h 27m 22.3s
2. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (F) Citroën DS3 WRC 1h 27m 24.6s
3. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1h 28m 44.5s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1h 30m 15.9s
5. Evgeny Novikov (RUS)/Stephane Prévot (B) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1h 30m 26.3s
6. Henning Solberg (N)/Ilka Minor (A) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1h 30m 38.8s
7. Dennis Kuipers (NL)/Frederic Miclotte (B) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1h 32m 29.1s
8. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Ford Fiesta S2000 1h 32m 37.5s
9. Ott Tanak (EE)/Kuldar Sikk (EE) Ford Fiesta S2000 1h 33m 04.5s
10. Martin Prokop (CZ)/Jan Tománek (CZ) Ford Fiesta S2000 1h 33m 30.1s
11. Mads Ostberg (N)/Jonas Andersson (N) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1h 33m 44.3s


For further media information:
2011 Guanajuato Rally Mexico Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, Tel: + 52 (477) 711-1475 or + 52 (477) 771-5365, E-mail: media@rallymexico.com.




Date issued: 04/03/2011

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