WRC Two-time World Champion Ogier heads quality Mexican rally field
RALLY GUANAJUATO CORONA 2015, March 5-8, 2015
2015 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
TWO-TIME WORLD CHAMPION OGIER HEADS QUALITY FIELD
INTO RALLY GUANAJUATO CORONA START ON THURSDAY
· Volkswagen, Hyundai, Ford and Citroën go head-to-head in Mexico
· WRC2 leader Stéphane Lefebvre set for Mexican baptism of fire
LEÓN (Mexico): The French duo of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia head an impressive 33-car field into this weekend’s 12th Rally Guanajuato Corona, round three of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The Volkswagen Polo R WRC driver has won the last two events in Mexico and will take the start, outside the Alhóndiga de Granaditas in the historic city of Guanajuato from 19.00hrs on Thursday evening, with a lead of 23 points in the Drivers’ Championship after his recent wins in Monte Carlo and Sweden.
Volkswagen has dominated the WRC since switching its attention to the sport from a successful foray into cross-country rallying and Ogier, Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala and Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen start as strong favourites to complete a Mexican hat-trick of wins for the German team. The trio secured a clean sweep of the podium places in Monte Carlo in January and claimed first and third overall in Sweden.
“As the fourth-placed man in the World Championship, I have the ideal starting position for day one in Mexico,” enthused Latvala. “My goal is to close the gap on Thierry Neuville, Andreas and Sébastien as much as possible.”
Hyundai Motorsport secured its first podium finish in León last year, but the performance of the i20 WRC has come on leaps and bounds in recent months and Thierry Neuville very nearly secured victory in Sweden, before missing out on the final stage to Ogier.
Engine modifications to make the i20 WRC’s engines more responsive at altitude should benefit Neuville, Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo and the German-based Hyundai Shell World Rally Team will be hopeful of at least a podium finish when the Mexican event draws to a close in León on Sunday afternoon.
Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg need a podium finish to kick-start the season for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. The French operation trails in fourth place in the Manufacturers’ points standings after two rounds and both the Ulsterman and the Norwegian will need to turn pace and impressive stage times into finishes and points on the board over the demanding gravel special stages that make the rally in Mexico such a challenge.
“It’s good to be back in León and leave the Norwegian winter behind,” said Mads. “I love the local culture, the welcome and the atmosphere you get around the rally. I held the overall lead for part of the rally last year. But it’s difficult to get the balance perfectly right. The secret is to be even more focused than usual, because the slightest error can prove very costly.”
Welshman Elfyn Evans and Estonian Ott Tanak hold sixth and seventh in the Drivers’ standings arriving in Mexico. Their performances have lifted the M-Sport World Rally Team into third place in the Manufacturers’ points behind Volkswagen and Hyundai.
“I’ve got some good memories from Mexico,” said Evans. “Last year was a bit of a surprise for us (fourth overall). It’s a tricky event and a lot of people had problems, which we were able to capitalise on. It’s important to keep out of trouble.”
Czech driver Martin Prokop, the Italian Lorenzo Bertelli, Poland’s Robert Kubica and the leading Mexican driver Benito Guerra round off the World Rally Car entrants in a quartet of Ford Fiesta RSs.
Rally Guanajuato Corona has attracted an impressive entry in the WRC2 category. Frenchman Stéphane Lefebvre and Finland’s Jari Ketomaa have taken a win apiece on the first two rallies of the season and have 25 points. Ireland’s Craig Breen and Norwegian Eyvind Brynildsen are tied for third on 18 points apiece, but only Lefebvre and Ketomaa have opted to enter the rally in Mexico.
Alongside the experienced Belgian navigator Stéphane Prevot, Lefebvre will be making his first appearance in Mexico at the wheel of a Citroën DS3 R5. “This will be a big learning experience for me. Apart from Wales Rally GB, which is a different event, this will be my first gravel rally in a four-wheel drive car,” said Lefebvre. “I’m going to try and improve on each leg. The aim is to put in the miles and acquire experience. It will certainly be a test of endurance. I have to learn the stages and I need to pick up some championship points.”
Hoping to close in on the Frenchman’s WRC2 lead will be Qatar’s defending champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah. This is the first WRC2 event in Al-Attiyah’s 2015 programme and he has an impressive record on dusty and hot gravel rallies around the world. The Qatari’s French navigator Matthieu Baumel is taking part in Mexico for the first time.
Fellow Qatari Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari won the WRC2 category in Mexico two years ago and teams up with new British co-driver Marshall Clarke on this occasion. Ukrainian Yuriy Protasov set some impressive times earlier this season and will also be one to watch over the Mexican gravel stages.
Italy’s Max Rendina and Gianluca Linari, Greek driver Jourdan Serderidis, Peruvian Nicolas Fuchs, Ukraine’s Valeriy Gorban and the Russian driver Radik Shaymiev round off the WRC2 entry.
The remainder of the field is made up of Mexican drivers, the Peruvian Jorge Enrique Martinez and Romania’s Simone Tempestini. Ricardo Trivino leads the local Group N contingent in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X and faces competition from the likes of Pancho Name, Jorge Gonzalez and Gustavo Adolfo Sanchez.
Tomorrow (Thursday), the morning’s timetable is dominated by a shakedown stage for Priority 1, 2 and 3 drivers before the official FIA pre-event press conference takes centre stage in the media centre at the Poliforum Expo Centre from 13.30hrs.
Rally officials will also celebrate International Women’s Day 2015, in conjunction with FIA Women in Motorsport, at a photo call and gathering at the main podium and fan zone in the service park at 15.30hrs.
Competitors then transfer to Guanajuato for the ceremonial start at 19.00hrs, before the opening 1.01km Guanajuato street stage roars through the cobbled streets and tunnels of the historic city from 19.09hrs and is followed by a second super special stage of 4.6km at 20.29hrs.
Rally Guanajuato Corona 2015 – leading starters
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
2. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
3. Kris Meeke (GBR)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Citroën DS3 WRC
4. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Jonas Andersson (SWE) Citroën DS3 WRC
5. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Daniel Barritt (GBR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
6. Ott Tanak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
7. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 WRC
8. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai i20 WRC
9. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ole Floene (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
20. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai I20 WRC
21. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tománek (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
37. Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
23. Benito Guerra (MEX)/Borja Rozada (MEX) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
24. Robert Kubica (POL)/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
2015 FIA World Rally Championship – positions after round 2
1. Sébestien Ogier (FRA) 53 pts
2. Thierry Neuville (BEL) 30 pts
3. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) 30 pts
4. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) 19 pts
5. Mads Østberg (NOR) 14 pts
6. Elfyn Evans (GBR) 14 pts
7. Ott Tanak (EST) 12 pts
8. Hayden Paddon (NZL) 10 pts
9. Kris Meeke (GBR) 10 pts
10. Dani Sordo (ESP) 8 pts, etc
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 68 pts
2. Hyundai Shell World Rally Team 55 pts
3. M-Sport World Rally Team 32 pts
4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 20 pts
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 15 pts
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 10 pts
7. F.W.R.T 1 pt
8. Hyundai Motorsport N 1 pt
For further media information:
Rally Guanajuato Corona 2015, Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, E-mail: Adrian@rallymexico.com or firstname.lastname@example.org