WRC Loeb and Elena claim fifth victory in Rally Mexico

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

For immediate release
Sunday, March 6th, 2011


· Sébastien Ogier crashes out of rally lead on Guanajuatito special
· Ford Abu Dhabi’s Hirvonen and Latvala claim second and third overall
· Hirvonen collects three bonus points for winning Guanajuato Power Stage
· Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah seals tense victory in SWRC category

LEÓN (Mexico): Defending FIA World Rally Champions, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, cruised to a comfortable 1m 38.4s victory in Rally Guanajuato Mexico 2011 when their French team mates and overnight leaders, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, left the road on the first of Sunday’s remaining three stages.

“That was a very hard weekend,” said a delighted Loeb. “It was a terrible fight with Ogier. We have done a nearly perfect weekend. I am happy with the new car. It is very fast.”

Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala benefited from Ogier’s demise to claim second and third overall for the Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. “It has been a funny rally,” admitted Hirvonen. “I could not really match the Citroën speed and then suddenly I am second.”

Norway’s Petter Solberg completed a remarkable climb through the field from 13th to finish fourth overall in his privately-run Citroën DS3 WRC. Norway’s Mads Ostberg finished fifth and Henning Solberg completed the 22 timed gravel stages in sixth.

Seventh-placed Qatari Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah confirmed his fourth rally victory of the year in as many starts. The winner of the Dakar Rally, the Qatar International Rally and the Saudi Ha’il Desert Challenge held off a fierce late challenge from Czech driver Martin Prokop to claim victory in the SWRC category in his Autotek Ford Fiesta S2000.

“Fantastic really,” said Al-Attiyah. “It was a very hard week. We compete here many times and it is a good start for us. We win the Dakar and then the Qatar Rally and the rally in Saudi. I hope to keep it going now. It is a fantastic year for us.”

“I am very happy with second place,” said Prokop. “It is important points for the championship. We had a bad set-up with the final ratio on Friday.” Finland’s Juho Hänninen survived a small roll on SS21 to confirm third position.

Day 3

With the threat of a time penalty ruled out following a Stewards’ meeting on Saturday evening, Ogier began the 29.13km Guanajuatito with a 10.5 second lead over Loeb. Indications from the Citroën Total World Rally Team pointed to an instruction from team director Olivier Quesnel for both drivers to reach the finish and not take risks.

That carefully skirted around whether he had imposed a team order for the final three stages to preserve the French manufacturer’s first and second overall and all eyes were on the performance of both drivers over the opening stage where Ogier was sweeping the track.

Both drivers were on the attack from the start, but Ogier left the road in the stage, broke the front left wheel and was passed by Loeb, who cruised through into a comfortable lead. The overnight-leading Frenchman lost his place on the leader board and Hirvonen and Latvala climbed into second and third overall.

“I was not happy to see him there (Ogier),” said Loeb. “It is not so nice to have to push between team mates. It was my job to push. I am fighting for the championship. I wanted to fight. It is very important now that we get the car to the finish.”

A fascination three-way tussle was also developing in the S2000 category. Al-Attiyah began the day with a 38.6s advantage over Prokop, but he lost his concentration in the opening stage because of a loose rubber door strip and the Czech driver reduced his lead to 23.1s. Hänninen was also on a charge in his Skoda Fabia and managed to beat Prokop by 7.7s and closed to within 22.4s of second place.

Hänninen wrecked his chance of catching Prokop in Comanjilla when he rolled gently. The Finn lost 56 seconds to his rival, who continued to close the gap on Al-Attiyah to 16.6s. The leaders all eased their pace and Latvala was credited with the fastest time, as all attention turned to the final 8.28km of the Guanajuato Power Stage and the quest for bonus WRC points.

Petter Solberg had sacrificed one of his spare wheels in a bid to save weight to give himself the advantage on the Power Stage. Ken Block laid down the gauntlet with a target time of 4m 56.4s, but the American was never likely to trouble the leading sextet of Loeb, Hirvonen, Latvala, Solberg, Mads Ostberg and Henning Solberg.

Henning Solberg recorded 4m 49.5s, Ostberg bettered the time with a 4m 48.3s and Petter Solberg pressed hard to beat his fellow Norwegians. He crushed Ostberg with a time of 4m 42.5s, despite admitting to a couple of small mistakes on the cleaning surface.

Latvala tried as hard as he could and was pipped by Solberg by 0.4s, as Hirvonen and Loeb stood in the way of the three extra points for Petter. Hirvonen was in inspired form and set a time of 4m 40.4s to beat Solberg. Loeb was only able to tie Solberg’s time and the three additional points for the FIA Drivers’ Championship were awarded to Hirvonen at the end of a gruelling and thrilling second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Positions after SS22 – End of Day 3 (unofficial @ 12.05hrs):
1. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (MC) Citroën DS3 WRC 3h 53m 17.0s
2. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3h 54m 55.4s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3h 55m 40.9s
4. Petter Solberg (N)/Chris Patterson (GB) Citroën DS3 WRC 4h 00m 35.4s
5. Mads Ostberg (N)/Jonas Andersson (N) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 4h 02m 00.5s
6. Henning Solberg (N)/Ilka Minor (A) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 4h 03m 07.0s
7. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Ford Fiesta S2000 4h 06m 38.5s
8. Martin Prokop (CZ)/Jan Tománek (CZ) Ford Fiesta S2000 4h 06m 52.0s
9. Juho Hänninen (FIN)/Mikko Markkula (FIN) Skoda Fabia S2000 4h 08m 05.7s
10. Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge Pérez Companc (RA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 4h 41m 34.2s


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: 06/03/2011

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