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WRC Volkswagen's Ogier and Ingrassia leap into crushing lead in Mexico

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

For immediate release
Saturday, March 9th, 2013

VOLKSWAGEN’S OGIER AND INGRASSIA LEAP INTO
CRUSHING LEAD IN RALLY GUANAJUATO MEXICO

· Finland’s Hirvonen clings on to second place; Belgian Neuville a close third
· Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari cruises into massive WRC 2 lead in Mexico
· Alternator issues force Ford’s Mads Østberg out of second position


LEÓN (Mexico): Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia remained in a class of their own after 20 of 23 timed special stages of the 10th Rally Guanajuato Mexico on Saturday evening.

The French duo won five of the day’s seven timed tests in their Volkswagen Polo R WRC to take a commanding advantage of 2min 52.4sec into the final three stages on Sunday morning.

“It’s been another good day for us,” said a relaxed Ogier. “I try to find a rhythm to stay in a good pace without taking any risks. I did not want to force the pace. Just one day to go and a long stage in the morning.”

A brave drive by Norwegian Mads Østberg came to an end on the road section to the 15th stage when the Ford driver suffered terminal alternator problems. His demise changed Mikko Hirvonen’s strategy after the first stage of the day and the Finn settled into a safe pace without upsetting his rhythm to conserve second position, but an 18th stage puncture dropped him into the clutches of Thierry Neuville and the pair face a fascinating tussle for the runner-up spot on Sunday.

Neuville was a comfortable third in the first of the Ford Fiestas, despite power steering issues and the Belgian heads into the final day just 7.5 seconds behind Hirvonen. “We had quite a strange day,” said Neuville. “We broke the steering this morning, then we had problems with the engine temperature but we have had a good afternoon and can still reach second place.”

Dani Sordo held fourth, although the Spaniard admitted that he had not been happy with the set-up of his Citroën DS3 until the afternoon loop and he had not been prepared to drive it on the limit.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah survived a spin to hold fifth position and Ken Block held off local hero Benito Guerra to maintain a grip on sixth, only for the Mexican to slip behind a charging Australian Chris Atkinson. Czech Martin Prokop and Evgeny Novikov rounded off the top 10 after the Russian had passed the struggling Pole Michal Kosciuszko on the penultimate stage to snatch 10th.

Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari extended his massive overnight lead in the WRC 2 category to 6min 11.8sec at the end of the second leg. Peruvian driver Nicolás Fuchs held second and Mexican Ricardo Trivińo climbed to third, despite braking woes on the longer stages. Ukraine’s Yuriy Protasov was fourth, but Germany’s Armin Kremer retired with mechanical problems.

Leg two – as it happened

Twenty-two of the original 25 starters tackled the 30.04km Ibarrilla stage, with Jari-Matti Latvala reinstated at the front of the running order under the Rally 2 ruling after his Friday morning dramas. The Finn posted the target time of 18min 20.1sec, but it was no match for the later runners who benefited from cleaner lines through the tricky stage.

Ogier recorded the fastest time of 17min 49.8sec and extended his overall advantage over Østberg to 41.4 seconds. But the Norwegian appeared to be in trouble with a problematic clutch and it was a concerned Ford driver who headed to the 42.17km of the 15th Otates special stage, having edged another 2.6 seconds in front of third-placed Hirvonen.

Neuville and Sordo maintained fourth and fifth, but Al-Attiyah survived a small spin to record the ninth quickest time and retain sixth overall. Fellow Qatari Al-Kuwari was again quickest in the WRC 2 category – which had been whittled down to five cars with the retirement of Italy’s Lorenzo Bertelli with fuel tank issues – and the Seashore Ford driver extended his advantage over Fuchs to a massive 2min 44.5sec.

Latvala tactically decided to start the stage late to enable Volkswagen Motorsport to test the Polo from a better road position through Otates and that meant that Evgeny Novikov was first on the road. Østberg’s clutch issue was diagnosed as a minor slave cylinder problem but electrical gremlins linked to the alternator set in on the road section to SS15 and meant that the Norwegian was unable to start the stage.

“This is my biggest disappointment ever on a rally,” said the Norwegian. “On the road section, an alarm came on for the alternator and it took about five minutes to drain the battery. We looked for obvious causes but it was too late. I allow myself to be disappointed and then I will move on.”

Latvala eventually slotted into seventh position on the road to enable him to test engine and suspension components in a competitive stage position, but it failed to stop Ogier cruising to another stage win; the Frenchman increased his overall advantage over Hirvonen to 1min 08.6sec.

The Finn had also changed his strategy to conserve second position after Østberg’s demise, but power steering problems had hindered Neuville and Hirvonen reached the street stage in Leon 1min 35.3sec in front of the Belgian. Sordo complained that he couldn’t adapt to driving the DS3 on the limit, although the Spaniard remained 37.4 seconds in front of Al-Attiyah.

Al-Kuwari retained a massive lead in WRC 2. “Very tough stages today,” said the young Qatari. “On many corners I lost a few seconds to avoid rocks. I don’t want to push any more.”

Hirvonen won the León street stage but Ogier headed to the re-run of Ibarrilla with a commanding 1min 08.4sec advantage. Al-Attiyah hit a rock in sixth gear and survived unscathed and Atkinson continued his climb through the top 10 and began to pressurise Block. Ogier set the quickest time and moved 1min 21.4sec clear of Hirvonen and Al-Kuwari pulled a further 54.1 seconds away from Fuchs in WRC 2.

Temperatures were up in the low thirties as teams tackled a repeat of the 42.17km of the Otates stage. Kosciuszko’s Mini Cooper lapsed into front-wheel drive and he slipped behind Novikov as Atkinson closed to within 29.2 seconds of Block. The drama continued: Hirvonen punctured 25km into the stage, lost over 90 seconds and slipped to within 7.2 seconds of Neuville. Latvala earned the fastest time after Ogier was forced to stop briefly on the stage.

Two runs through the super special stages brought proceedings to a close with Hirvonen and Neuville set for a battle royale over the final day and Block looking over his shoulder at a hard-charging Atkinson, who ended the day just 26.7 seconds behind.

Tomorrow (Sunday) features the final three very different special stages of Rally Guanajuato Mexico. The mammoth 54.85km of the daunting Guanajuatito special is first on the agenda from 08.58hrs and then crews tackle the Derramadero Power Stage, where an additional three bonus points are at stake for the winner.

The event reaches a conclusion with a single run through a 4.42km super special stage at 11.46hrs, with the podium finish scheduled to take place in León from 14.00hrs.

2013 Rally Guanajuato Mexico - overall positions after SS20:
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julian Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 3hr 38min 42.2 sec
2. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Citroën DS3 WRC 3hr 41min 34.6 sec
3. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3hr 41min 42.1 sec
4. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Carlos del Barrio (ESP) Citroën DS3 WRC 3hr 43min 27.4 sec
5. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3hr 44min 16.1 sec
6. Ken Block (USA)/Alex Gelsomino (ITA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3hr 47min 39.3 sec
7. Chris Atkinson (AUS)/Stéphane Prévot (BEL) Citroën DS3 WRC 3hr 48min 06.0 sec
8. Benito Guerra (MEX)/Borja Rozada (MEX) Citroën DS3 WRC 3hr 48min 43.1 sec
9. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Michal Ernst (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3hr 50min 04.5 sec
10. Evgeny Novikov (RUS)/Ilka Minor (AUT) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3hr 54min 24.1 sec
11. Michal Kosciuszko (POL)/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL) Mini John Cooper Works 3hr 58min 46.4 sec
12. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Ford Fiesta RRC - WRC 2 4hr 02min 48.8 sec

Ends

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

www.wrc.com
www.rallymexico.com
 

Date issued: 09/03/2013

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