WRC Ogier and Ingrassia head into Mexican challenge with early season WRC lead
RALLY GUANAJUATO CORONA 2016, March 3-6, 2016
2016 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016
OGIER AND INGRASSIA HEAD INTO MEXICAN
CHALLENGE WITH EARLY SEASON WRC LEAD
· Mexican round of WRC gets underway in Guanajuato on Thursday evening
· M-Sport World Rally Team chases 200th consecutive points-scoring finish
LEÓN (Mexico): Three-time World Champions, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, line up for their 100th WRC start in the centre of Guanajuato on Thursday evening with a 23-point early season lead in the FIA World Rally Championship.
The French duo head a 29-car field into the 13th Rally Guanajuato Corona, an event that they and Volkswagen Motorsport have dominated for the last three years. Renowned for its demanding energy and power-sapping gravel stages at altitude, Ogier has always delivered impressive performances in the Bajío region of north-central Mexico and he arrives at the start with two emphatic wins under his belt so far this year in Monte-Carlo and Sweden.
“My career began with a victory in the Junior World Rally Championship here eight years ago and that was a dream come true for me,” said Ogier. “The last three visits have been successful for us. Julien and I will not be over-confident and will be as focused as ever when the rally begins.”
Volkswagen again tops the Manufacturers’ points standings at this early point of the season, but the New Generation Hyundai i20 WRCs have been impressive on the first two rallies in Europe and the Korean manufacturer will be chasing a third successive podium finish. Hyundai trails Volkswagen by just five points in large part due to a third for Thierry Neuville in France and second for Kiwi Hayden Paddon at a not-so-snowy Swedish Rally. Dani Sordo has also begun the season strongly in the third i20.
Andreas Mikkelsen has been Ogier’s closest challenger so far this season in another Volkswagen Polo R WRC and the Norwegian’s confidence has come on in leaps and bounds since he claimed a maiden WRC victory in Spain last autumn. New co-driver Anders Jaeger Synnervag will experience the Mexican heat and dust for the first time.
Jari-Matti Latvala is undoubtedly one of the fastest and most exciting WRC drivers in the championship, but the winner of 15 WRC rallies has endured a disappointing start to his 2016 campaign alongside Ogier. He arrives in León without a point to show for his efforts and will need to err on the side of caution if he is to kick-start his season in North America.
Mads Østberg’s return to a Ford Fiesta as part of the M-Sport World Rally Team has begun well and the Norwegian holds third in the championship standings. Østberg finished second in Mexico last year with Citroën, led the event outright in 2013 in a Ford and is more than capable of matching the Volkswagens on his sixth outing in Mexico.
“This is one of my favourite events and we have done well here in the past,” said Østberg. “This will be my first time driving the latest version of the Fiesta RS on gravel, so there will be an element of getting to grips with everything. It’s an event where you have to be 100% focused. The high altitude means the engines have less power, so if you make a mistake it’s difficult to get the time back, as you can’t get back on the power as quickly.”
His team-mate is the relatively inexperienced Frenchman Eric Camilli, who has yet to get off the mark this season. M-Sport will be aiming for a milestone achievement in Mexico; the team is on the brink of securing a record-breaking 200 consecutive points-scoring finishes in the WRC.
Ott Tanak is one of the most exciting talents to emerge from Eastern Europe since Markko Martin and the Estonian will be keen to maintain his solid start to the season in the all-new DMACK World Rally Team Ford Fiesta.
Tanak is sixth in the Drivers’ Championship after round two and will be hoping to avoid the type of incident that gave him news headlines around the world for all the wrong reasons in Mexico last year. After crashing into a lake and emerging from his submerged Ford, his M-Sport mechanics somehow repaired the Fiesta and he and Raigo Molder completed the event. It was a remarkable piece of WRC history.
Czech Martin Prokop, Italian Lorenzo Bertelli Ukraine’s Valery Gorban and local driver Benito Guerra also drive World Rally Cars.
Elfyn Evans has been the revelation of the WRC 2 category since switching from a factory Ford Fiesta RS WRC at the start of the season. Mexico is not one of the Welshman’s chosen events, however, and that leaves the door open for several title hopefuls to step into the breach in his absence.
Defending champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah withdrew to concentrate on his Olympic shooting bid and that could open the door for Germany’s Armin Kremer to add to the 18 points he earned for second place behind Evans in Monte-Carlo. Finland’s Teemu Suninen will also be hopeful of a win and Mexico sees the return of Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, the winner of the WRC 2 category in Mexico three years ago, who finished 11th overall last year.
Other drivers pushing for a potential podium include Russian Radik Shaymiev, Qatar’s Khalid Al-Suwaidi, Poland’s Hubert Ptaszek, Peruvian Nicolas Fuchs (ninth overall in 2015) and the local hero Ricardo Trivino.
Frenchman Michel Fabre is the sole entrant in the WRC 3 category and the remainder of the entry is made up of Mexican and South American drivers, including Francisco Name, Miguel Medina and Jorge Gonzalez-Hernandez.
The customary 5.55km shakedown stage gets underway on Thursday morning from 09.00hrs and precedes the traditional FIA pre-event press conference for a selection of the field at the event’s media centre from 13.30hrs.
The first of six successive WRC gravel rallies then gets underway outside the Alhóndiga de Granaditas in the historic centre of Guanajuato from 20.00hrs on Thursday evening. Crews then head into the opening stage that runs for 1.09km through the tunnels and cobbled streets of Guanajuato from 20.10hrs.
Two runs through a Super Special stage of 2.30km, starting at 21.30hrs, brings the first day’s action to a conclusion.
Rally Guanajuato Corona 2016 – 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. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai New i20 WRC
4. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai New i20 WRC
5. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
6. Eric Camilli (FRA)/Benjamin Veillas (FRA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
9. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Anders Jaeger Synnervag (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
12. Ott Tanak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
20. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai New i20 WRC
21. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tománek (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
37. Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA)/Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
22. Benito Guerra (MEX)/Borja Rozada (ESP) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
2016 FIA World Rally Championship – positions after round 2
1. Sébestien Ogier (FRA) 56 pts
2. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) 33 pts
3. Mads Østberg (NOR) 27 pts
4. Hayden Paddon (NZL) 18 pts
5. Dani Sordo (ESP) 18 pts
6. Ott Tanak (EST) 16 pts
7. Thierry Neuville (BEL) 15 pts
8. Stéphane Lefebvre (FRA) 10 pts
9. Elfyn Evans (GBR) 6 pts
10. Henning Solberg (NOR) 6 pts
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 54 pts
2. Hyundai Motorsport 49 pts
3. Volkswagen Motorsport II 30 pts
4. M-Sport World Rally Team 27 pts
5. DMACK World Rally Team 18 pts
6. Hyundai Motorsport N 14 pts
For further media information:
Rally Guanajuato Corona 2016, Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, E-mail: Adrian@rallymexico.com or firstname.lastname@example.org