WRC Ogier and Ingrassia take control for Volkswagen in Mexico

RALLY GUANAJUATO MEXICO 2013, March 7-10, 2013
2013 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3

For immediate release
Friday, March 8th, 2013


· Mads Østberg holds second overall; Hirvonen and Neuville battle for third
· Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari storms into massive WRC 2 lead
· Volkswagen’s Latvala breaks suspension wishbone 500 metres into first stage

LEÓN (Mexico): The French duo of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia controlled proceedings in the Rally Guanajuato Mexico after 13 of 23 timed special stages on Friday.

Norwegian Mads Østberg was the only driver able to get anywhere near to Ogier’s stage times during the course of the day and he finished the leg 33 seconds behind the championship-leading Frenchman, who is high on confidence after claiming a first WRC victory for the Volkswagen Polo R WRC in Sweden.

“It was a really good day and I am very happy,” said Ogier. “I am surprised to be so far ahead, so I am very pleased with that. We are in the perfect position and last on the road (running order) for tomorrow.”

Thierry Neuville became embroiled in a fascinating scrap with Mikko Hirvonen for the final podium place but the Finn used his greater experience over the final few stages to edge ahead of the Belgian to claim a grip on third position with the first of the works Citroën DS3s. He trailed Østberg by just nine seconds.

Spaniard Dani Sordo was a subdued fifth in the second DS3 and Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah was enjoying his first WRC event of the season and held sixth position. America’s Ken Block, Mexican favourite Benito Guerra, Czech driver Martin Prokop and Australian Chris Atkinson rounded off the top 10.

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari dominated the WRC 2 category in his Ford Fiesta RRC. Once Peruvian Nicolás Fuchs had lost time with steering column woes early on, the Qatari was able to control his pace and he reached León with a comfortable lead. Fuchs (Mitsubishi) held second and Germany’s Armin Kremer (Subaru) was third.

Day one (Section 2) – as it happened

The slippery cobbles at the start of the 21.91km El Cubilete were first on the agenda and Ogier gave a clear message to his rivals by posting a potent time to extend his overnight advantage to 5.3 seconds.

A stunned Latvala collided with a rock 500 metres into the stage and damaged his Polo’s front wishbone, as Ostberg and Neuville remained in second and third overall and Novikov lost eight minutes with an engine ECU issue.

“The roads are good but there are a lot of rocks on the side,” said Latvala. “One of the cars in front of me pulled one into the track and I could not avoid it. It hit the sump guard and then hit the track control arm and broke it straight away. Maybe we (Volkswagen) were a little weak in this area.”

Chris Atkinson clouted a rock in the stage and was unable to start the fourth Las Minas stage on time after being forced to change the track control arm on the road section. He continued with an additional 3min 30sec of road penalties.

Østberg benefited from Ogier losing time early in the fourth stage and the Norwegian snatched a 1.4-second lead. Ogier held second and Hirvonen moved in front of Neuville into third, despite losing a few seconds in Evgeny Novikov’s dust when the Russian was delayed further with ongoing engine management issues.

Østberg extended his advantage over Ogier to 1.9 seconds through Los Mexicanos, as the leaders headed to the demanding new El Chocolate stage with the focus on preserving their tyres for the 30.57km that lay ahead.

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari had continued where he began on Thursday night by maintaining his WRC 2 lead with the Seashore Ford Fiesta. The Qatari was beaten by Nicolás Fuchs through SS3, but he pipped the Peruvian in Las Minas and extended his advantage to 1min 21.1sec after Fuchs lost a minute in the fifth stage with steering woes. Yuriy Protasov dropped three minutes with a third stage puncture and then suffered power steering problems.

Ogier regained an 11.8 second advantage over Østberg when the Norwegian complained about a lack of traction and tyre problems towards the end of the sixth special. Hirvonen and Neuville held third and fourth positions and Al-Kuwari retained a 1min 44.4sec advantage in WRC 2 heading to the León super special and the return to service at the Poliforum, despite losing time in the dust of a struggling Lorenzo Bertelli.

“It was a good morning,” admitted Ogier. “We did not have the best road position but I lead the rally and can be happy with that. We have done a good job so far.”

The Frenchman was fastest again in SS8 and extended his lead over Østberg to 24.1 seconds, as Neuville closed to within 0.4 seconds of Hirvonen’s third place with the second fastest time. But Ogier dropped 5.2 seconds to his Norwegian rival in Las Minas and the Polo driver reached Los Mexicanos with a reduced lead of 18.9 seconds. Hirvonen dug deep to pull 5.2 seconds clear of Neuville, while Bertelli was forced out of the WRC 2 category with engine issues.

Østberg pushed hard through the 10th stage and was able to claw seven-tenths of a second back from Ogier heading back to the all-important Chocolate special. He set a staggering time through the re-run of the new stage, beating both Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Dani Sordo by over 52 seconds, to stretch his advantage over Østberg to 29.4 seconds heading into the final two super special stages of the day. Hirvonen set the second fastest time and moved 24.4 seconds in front of Neuville in third place and Al-Kuwari continued to dominate in WRC 2.

Tomorrow (Saturday), teams will tackle a further seven special stages, including one run through the short León street stage and two attempts at an evening super special. The more demanding gravel stage action features two passes through both the Ibarilla and Otates tests, with action getting underway in the hills at 08.58hrs. The event finishes in León on Sunday afternoon.

2013 Rally Guanajuato Mexico - overall positions after SS13:
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julian Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1hr 57min 46.9 sec
2. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Jonas Andersson (SWE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1hr 58min 19.9 sec
3. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Citroën DS3 WRC 1hr 58min 28.9 sec
4. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1hr 58min 54.0 sec
5. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Carlos del Barrio (ESP) Citroën DS3 WRC 2hr 00min 27.0 sec
6. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2hr 01min 11.0 sec
7. Ken Block (USA)/Alex Gelsomino (ITA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2hr 02min 33.4 sec
8. Benito Guerra (MEX)/Borja Rozada (MEX) Citroën DS3 WRC 2hr 03min 50.3 sec
9. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Michal Ernst (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2hr 04min 12.3 sec
10. Chris Atkinson (AUS)/Stéphane Prévot (BEL) Citroën DS3 WRC 2hr 05min 02.0 sec
11. Michal Kosciuszko (POL)/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL) Mini John Cooper Works 2hr 06min 28.0 sec, etc


For further media information:
2013 Rally Guanajuato Mexico, Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, Tel: + 52 (477) 711-3688 or + 52 (477) 711-3774, E-mail: eugenio@rallymexico.com, mauriciog@rallymexico.com or ndppublicity@googlemail.com



Date issued: 08/03/2013

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