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WRC World Champion Ogier heads Volkswagen 1-2 after dramatic day in Mexico

RALLY GUANAJUATO CORONA 2015, March 5-8, 2015
2015 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3

For immediate release
Friday, March 6th, 2015

WORLD CHAMPION OGIER HEADS VOLKSWAGEN 1-2 AFTER
DRAMATIC OPENING LEG OF RALLY GUANAJUATO MEXICO

· Latvala and Østberg second and third; Neuville loses second place in SS8
· Ukrainian Protasov holds slender WRC2 lead over Qatar’s Al-Attiyah
· Tanak and Molder survive dramatic third stage plunge into reservoir
· Paddon damages suspension and retires; Meeke and Kubica crash out

LEÓN (Mexico): The French duo of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia survived a dramatic opening leg of the 12th Rally Guanajuato Corona and overcame the disadvantage of running first on the road to move into a 13.5-second lead after 10 special stages of the third round of the FIIA World Rally Championship.

In an incident-filled day, where spectacular crashes and a high rate of attrition amongst the leading cars stole the headlines, the defending World Champions were the models of consistency in the lead Volkswagen Polo R WRC.

When Ogier’s closest challenger, Thierry Neuville of Belgium, sustained a puncture and rolled his Hyundai i20 WRC out of second place in SS8, Ogier cruised to the end of the leg ahead of Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn, meanwhile, survived a frightening moment of his own on the final super special stage.

“Quite amazing to have the lead after starting first on the road this morning,” said Ogier. “This has been very hard and we had to push from the first minute to the end. But I am very pleased with this and no road cleaning for me tomorrow.”

Norway’s Mads Østberg refused to let Andreas Mikkelsen through into third place to make it a Volkswagen 1-2-3 and the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver overcame gearbox issues and reached the overnight halt in the final podium place. “It got better as the day went on. We are focusing on trying to enjoy it,” said Mads.

Behind Mikkelsen, Welshman Elfyn Evans was fifth in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta and Dani Sordo was a distant sixth in the sole-surviving works Hyundai.

The ever-improving Ukrainian Yuriy Protasov fended off an increasingly intense challenge from Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah to hold a 14.5-second advantage in WRC2. “It has been a good day for us but it is a big battle with Nasser,” said Protasov.

M-Sport World Rally Team’s Ott Tanak and Raigo Molder were fortunate to survive a dramatic third stage plunge into a reservoir next to the track. Their Ford Fiesta rolled down the banking into the water and the Estonian duo managed to escape before the car sunk out of sight. It was retrieved from its watery grave late on Friday afternoon.

“It was a difficult experience for us,” said Tanak. “I braked into a compression and damaged the front-right suspension. We couldn’t steer the car around the next left-hand corner and went off the edge of the road. The drop was so steep that we rolled into the water. Luckily the car landed on its wheels, but the water was so deep that the car sank really fast. I also had a problem with my intercom wire because it didn’t come loose and was dragging me into the water. It was not a nice moment to have.”

It was an accident that bore a striking similarity to the one that befell Scottish former FIA World Ladies champion Louise Aitken-Walker and her Swedish co-driver Tina Thörner in Portugal in 1990.

Friday – as it happened

Ogier led 29 rivals from the restart at the Rally Campus in León to the start of the 9.91km of Los Mexicanos. The short gravel special took place in cool, overcast conditions and Neuville moved to within 0.2 seconds of Ogier after setting the second quickest time behind Meeke, who climbed to third place.

Østberg spun and lost nine seconds 1.2km into the test, but Tanak left the road and the car was not visible to passing cars after becoming submerged in water. The incident forced rally organisers to stop the stage after Lorenzo Bertelli’s car had crossed the start, but neither member of the Estonian crew was injured in the frightening incident and they were transported to the end of the special in a safety car.

The leading group headed for the daunting 44.13km of the El Chocolate special. but Paddon stopped 3.1km from the start with rear suspension damage after sliding wide under braking and hitting a rock. Meeke lost third place after getting out of line in a fast right-hand corner 1.5km into the stage. The Ulsterman clipped a rock and damaged the DS3.

Running first on the road in low cloud and cool, overcast conditions was no disadvantage to Ogier and the Frenchman extended his outright lead to 13.3 seconds. Latvala complained about the slippery conditions, but Kubica was in flying form and was running comfortably quicker than Ogier through the early split sections before stopping to change a puncture. A steering arm was also damaged however, and the Pole rolled out of contention soon afterwards. Sordo suffered transmission issues on the start line and windscreen misting after the water splash.

Rally officials decided to stop the stage after Bertelli had started to regroup the field before Las Minas 1. Neuville duly reduced Ogier’s lead to 8.9 seconds, but the Frenchman was satisfied with his morning’s work after depriving Martin Prokop of a first ever WRC stage win in the León street stage where he extended his lead to 9.6 seconds.

“I am very pleased with this loop,” said Ogier. “We made a clever tyre choice and it compensated for sweeping the road. I pushed very hard.”

It had been a short morning for all the WRC2 crews, but they got their first taste of gravel action in Las Minas. Overnight leader Protasov maintained his advantage with the quickest time and extended his lead over Al-Attiyah by 3.5 seconds and Ketomaa by 15 seconds. The Ukrainian reached the midday service with a lead of 11.5 seconds.

Latvala was quickest through the re-run of Los Mexicanos to consolidate third place behind Ogier and Neuville, but the second pass through El Chocolate would be decisive. Lorenzo Bertelli stopped just over seven kilometres into the stage with technical issues and Neuville’s brave challenge also melted in El Chocolate when he rolled and damaged his i20 WRC’s radiator in a left-hand corner not far from the finish after he had sustained a flat tyre.

The carnage continued when Sordo’s Hyundai sustained a flat tyre and he also damaged the bodywork in a water splash. WRC2 entrant Valeriy Gorban stopped on the stage for five minutes, Stéphane Lefebvre punctured, stopped to change a broken wheel lost a total of 11 minutes. Local hero Benito Guerra badly damaged the rear right-hand side of his Ford Fiesta after clouting a tree and lost three minutes in the stage.

Ogier duly headed to stage nine with an advantage of 12.1 seconds over team-mate and stage winner Latvala. Mikkelsen climbed to within 4.6 seconds of Østberg’s hold on third place after the Citroën driver clipped a bank and lost vital time. Protasov extended his WRC2 lead over Al-Attiyah to 14.5 seconds.

The last gravel stage of the day was a re-run of the 15.54km of Las Minas and Latvala continued his resurgent form to shave another 1.2 seconds off Ogier’s lead, even though Østberg set the quickest time to maintain third overall.

Ogier set the quickest time in the 4.6km super special stage and extended his lead over Latvala to 13.5 seconds.

Tomorrow

Crews tackle a further eight special stages on Saturday in a similar route format to Friday, with three gravel stages preceded by a second run around the León street stage. The three timed tests are repeated in the afternoon and the León circuit takes centre stage in the evening for the third tour of the super special.

Action gets underway with the 30.27km of Ibarilla at 09.28hrs and this is followed by the daunting 42.90km of Otates at 10.41hrs and the televised El Brinco special at 12.08hrs. The three gravel specials are repeated from 15.09hrs, 16.22hrs and 17.15hrs.

Rally Guanajuato Corona 2015 – positions after SS10
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1hr 45min 03.0sec
2. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1hr 45min 16.5sec
3. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Jonas Andersson (SWE) Citroën DS3 WRC 1hr 45min 32.5sec
4. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ole Floene (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1hr 45min 48.2sec
5. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Daniel Barritt (GBR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1hr 46min 06.9sec
6. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai i20 WRC 1hr 46min 43.5sec
7. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tománek (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1hr 47min 06.5sec
8. Yuriy Protasov (UKR)/Pavlo Cherepin (UKR) Ford Fiesta RRC 1hr 49min 35.4sec
9. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta RRC 1hr 49min 49.9sec
10. Nicolas Fuchs (PER)/Fernando Musano (ARG) Ford Fiesta RS 1hr 51min 33.8sec
11. Jari Ketomaa (FIN)/Kaj Lindström (FIN) Ford Fiesta R5 1hr 52min 07.1sec

Ends

For further media information:
Rally Guanajuato Corona 2015, Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, Tel: + 52 (477) 771-4978 or + 52 (477) 771-4961, E-mail: Adrian@rallymexico.com or ndppublicity@googlemail.com

www.wrc.com
www.rallymexico.com
 

 

Date issued: 06/03/2015

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