WRC Volkswagen's Ogier on track to defend WRC lead in Mexico
RALLY GUANAJUATO MEXICO 2013, March 7-10, 2013
2013 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
VOLKSWAGEN’S OGIER ON TRACK TO DEFEND
WRC LEAD IN RALLY GUANAJUATO MEXICO
· Hirvonen nicely-poised to chase maiden Mexican rally victory
· Kremer and Protosov aim to close in on Wiegand in WRC2 category
· Tyres may play an important factor in outcome on Mexican gravel stages
LEÓN (Mexico): Frenchman Sébastien Ogier leads the FIA World Rally Championship by just three points after the opening two rounds in Monte Carlo and Sweden and the Volkswagen Polo R WRC driver reaches the start of the 10th Rally Guanajuato Mexico in confident mood.
Buoyed by his win in Sweden, a useful test session with the Polo and a short holiday in Cancún, the Frenchman will be aiming to become the first winner of the specialised gravel rally - other than defending World Champion Sébastien Loeb - since Petter Solberg secured the victory with Subaru in 2005.
Ogier finished eighth overall in Mexico last year after using a Skoda Fabia to continue Volkswagen Motorsport’s test and development programme in advance of this year’s WRC campaign with the Polo. With the financial might of the German team behind them, Ogier and Finnish team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala are confident that they can clinch a second successive WRC win with the Polo, despite the fact that this is the first real gravel test at altitude for the new car.
Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen has considerable experience of the Mexican stages with both the Ford and Citroën teams. The Finn finished runner-up to Loeb last season in Mexico with the DS3 WRC and is hopeful that tweaks to the suspension and the engine package will help him take a maiden victory in Mexico with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. Spaniard Dani Sordo lies fourth in the Drivers’ Championship standings after two rounds and drives the second team DS3.
Norwegian Mads Østberg finished fourth in Mexico last year and holds third position in this year’s championship with his Qatar M-Sport-backed Ford Fiesta RS WRC. He and Russian colleague Evgeny Novikov have set good stage times over the Mexican gravel stages in the past and will be chasing a podium finish with their Fords.
“We just need to ensure that we stay in touch with Ogier,” said Østberg. “He’s been very strong on the first two rallies and I think we can expect the same here. This is an event where road position counts for a lot, so we will be pushing from the beginning to make sure we have a good qualifying.”
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah admits that the Mexican event is one of his favourites in the championship and he returns to action after missing the Swedish Rally through illness. The Qatari excels on fast, flowing gravel stages and he and Belgian team-mate Thierry Neuville will be out to impress in their Qatar World Rally Team Fords. “Experience is always important and, having competed here six times already, I’ll be able to share some of that with Mads, Evgeny and Thierry,” said Al-Attiyah. “I don’t think they’ll need so much advice though. They are all very good drivers with great futures ahead of them.”
Aussie Chris Atkinson returns to WRC action with an Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3 in place of Khalid Al-Qassimi and Poland’s Michal Kosciuszko (Mini), Czech Martin Prokop (Ford) and American Ken Block (Ford) complete the Priority 1 driver line-up.
“I think this rally suits my driving style,” said Atkinson. “I’ve always had decent results in Mexico and we won a stage last year. Hopefully we can do a good job and get a decent points’ haul for the Abu Dhabi team. Top five is a good target. I’d be happy with that.”
Young German Sepp Wiegand is the early season front-runner in the new WRC2 category, but the Skoda driver misses the Mexico event and his absence has opened the door for Armin Kremer (Subaru) to reduce Wiegand’s lead in the points’ standings. Wiegand (40 pts) currently heads Ukrainian Yuriy Protosov (Subaru) by 13 points, with the Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi in third on 25 and Kremer in fourth, 22 points adrift.
Six drivers have entered the WRC2 category in Mexico: Kremer and Protosov are joined by Italy’s Lorenzo Bertelli (Subaru), Mexican Ricardo Trivińo (Mitsubishi), Qatari’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (Ford) and Peruvian Nicolas Fuchs (Mitsubishi).
Benito Guerra represents the host nation in a Citroen DS3 WRC and the remainder of the 27-car field is made up of privateers from Mexico, Costa Rica and Venezuela.
Tyres are sure to play an important factor in deciding the outcome of the event in the punishing heat that is expected in the Guanajuato area this weekend. Each competitor is allowed to use a maximum of 28 tyres during the entire event and both Michelin and DMACK technicians will be working hard with the leading teams to decide upon the best compounds for the conditions, particularly for the abrasive longer stages and Sunday’s daunting 54.85km Guanajuatito special.
Tomorrow (Thursday) crews face a hectic timetable of events, starting with two hours of permitted practice before the start of the qualifying stage for Priority 1 and 2 drivers from 10.30hrs. P3 and other entrants will then tackle the shakedown stage from midday and several drivers will then join team representatives at the official pre-event press conference at the media centre in the Poliforum Expo Centre in León.
The ceremonial start will take place from 20.00hrs in front of the Alhóndiga de Granaditas in the city of Guanajuato, before crews tackle two short super special stages – the 1.05km Monster Street Stage through the mining tunnels in the ancient town and a new 2.6km sprint in Guanajuato’s Bicentennial Park.
For further media information:
Guanajuato Rally Mexico 2013, Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, Tel: + 52 (477) 711-3688 or + 52 (477) 711-3774, E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com