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WRC Latvala takes advantage of road position to lead after 10 stages in Mexico

RALLY GUANAJUATO CORONA 2016, March 3-6, 2016
2016 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3

For immediate release
Friday, March 4th, 2016

LATVALA TAKES ADVANTAGE OF HIS FAVOURABLE
ROAD POSITION TO LEAD AFTER DAY ONE IN MEXICO

· Determined Ogier defies road position to hold second; Hyundai’s Sordo in third
· Finland’s Suninen out in front in WRC 2; delayed Fuchs and Al-Kuwari struggle on

LEÓN (Mexico): Favourable road positions and correct tyre choices were critical on a fascinating first day of the 13th Rally Guanajuato Corona, round three of the FIA World Rally Championship, taking place in north-central Mexico on Friday.

Flying Finn Jari-Matti Latvala was fortunate to have both and he guided his Volkswagen Polo R WRC to an overnight lead of 32.1 seconds after 10 special stages. Triple World Champion Sébastien Ogier made the right tyre choices, but running first on the road was never going to be ideal for the Frenchman and his second position was all the more remarkable under the circumstances.

The Volkswagen duo were in a class of their own over the day’s four demanding gravel stages and three spectator specials and Ogier reached León 43.5 seconds ahead of third-placed Hyundai i20 WRC driver Dani Sordo. “The afternoon has been very good, I couldn’t be happier,” admitted Ogier. “I have been on the limit everywhere. I was pushing as much as I could.”

Andreas Mikkelsen complained of afternoon handling issues in the third Volkswagen and reached the end of the leg in fourth place. Haydon Paddon and Mads Ostberg regretted their morning’s hard compound tyre choices and held fifth and sixth, while DMACK World Rally Team’s Ott Tanak, Martin Prokop and Lorenzo Bertelli rounded off the top nine. A puncture and gearbox woes pushed a dejected Eric Camilli down to 11th in his M-Sport Ford.

The rate of attrition was high in WRC 2 and numerous problems for his rivals enabled Finland’s 10th-placed Teemu Suninen to storm into an emphatic lead in his Skoda Fabia R5. Both Armin Kremer and Nicolas Fuchs led early on, while Poland’s Hubert Ptaszek suffered gearbox issues and two punctures cost Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari over seven minutes and a chance to challenge.

Fellow Qatari Khalid Al-Suwaidi and Russian Radik Shaymiev retired and ongoing turbo and damaged suspension issues ruined Fuchs’s day, although the Peruvian and Al-Kuwari were still well placed to score useful points.

Friday – as it happened

The majority of the teams openly stated that the sinuous 54.21km of the El Chocolate special stage was the one they feared most. They were required to tackle it twice on Friday. WRC leader Ogier led Neuville by 1.7 seconds overnight, but the Frenchman’s task of cleaning the stage surface was sure to cost him that advantage. Power-sapping altitudes in excess of 2,700 metres made it even more difficult.

The front-running Volkswagens opted for soft compound tyres and it was a good decision. Ogier set the target time of 39min 10.4sec and it was sufficient for the Frenchman to retain second place behind a flying Latvala, who was quickest and gained an outright lead of 19 seconds.

Neuville slid off the road after a spin over a crest on a right-hand corner 13km from the finish, damaged a suspension arm and lost his second place. Sordo was second quickest and moved up to third, but Camilli stopped to change a flat rear-left tyre and dropped nearly four minutes. Hard tyre compound choices cost Paddon and Østberg valuable time and they held fifth and sixth overall.

WRC 2 runner Ptaszek also hit trouble, as Kremer recorded the second fastest time in the category and retained a 0.9-second advantage over Fuchs.

Latvala continued to press on through Las Minas and another quickest time extended the Finn’s lead over Ogier to 22.4 seconds, but the Frenchman had driven superbly from first on the road to stay in contention. Sordo was third.

“My position is really good,” admitted Ogier, who reduced Latvala’s advantage to 21.2 seconds on the street special. “I should be far away from the leader. The grip was so low. It is not easy in these conditions. Some guys are doing another rally (Latvala) and there is no point in looking at their times.”

Fuchs took control of WRC 2 with a stunning time and reached the León street stage with a lead of 15.1 seconds over Suninen, with Kremer a mere three-tenths of a second adrift. Punctures cost both Ptaszek and Al-Kuwari valuable time and the Pole also complained of gearbox and brake issues. Khalid Al-Suwaidi was sidelined, as 10th-placed Fuchs reached service with a WRC 2 lead of 13.7 seconds.

Latvala was convinced that he would still be doing some stage cleaning on the second pass of El Chocolate, where stones thrown into the track were more prevalent in the afternoon and added to the danger. Ogier shaved a stunning 44 seconds off his morning run and crushed Mikkelsen by 42.3 seconds, although the Norwegian overshot a junction and then complained of brake and handling issues. Sordo moaned about a badly handling Hyundai, Tanak spun his DMACK Ford on a narrow section and that left the door open for Latvala to extend his lead over Ogier to 31.2 seconds with a third stage win.

“The advantage is not as big in the afternoon as it was in the morning,” said Latvala. “We have to be patient. I don’t need to take everything in one stage. The grip levels are changing a lot.”

El Chocolate 2 decimated the WRC 2 field: Kremer stopped, Al-Kuwari punctured again and Fuchs lost substantial time and handed a comfortable lead to new leader Suninen. The Finn headed for the remaining three stages of the day 1min 51.1sec in front of Fuchs.

Latvala extended his overall lead over Ogier to 31.7 seconds in Las Minas and emerged unscathed from the two super special stages to reach the overnight halt with a lead of 32.1 seconds. With Latvala again having the road positional advantage on the morrow, it sets up the prospect of another fascinating tactical battle between the Volkswagen Motorsport duo in the heat and dust of rural Mexico.

Tomorrow

Crews tackle a further nine special stages on Saturday. The day comprises the 30.38km of Ibarrilla, two runs through the 42.62km Otates special, two attempts at El Brinco, a single pass through Aqua Zarca and a return to the super special stage for two more laps and the street stage in León.

Rally Guanajuato Corona 2016 – positions after SS10:
1. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1hr 48min 00.0sec
2. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1hr 48min 32.1sec
3. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai New i20 WRC 1hr 49min 15.6sec
4. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Anders Jaeger (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1hr 49min 46.7sec
5. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai New i20 WRC 1hr 50min 20.8sec
6. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1hr 50min 35.6sec
7. Ott Tanak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1hr 51min 53.8sec
8. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tománek (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1hr 52min 56.3sec
9. Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA)/Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1hr 53min 11.3sec
10. Teemu Suninen (FIN)/Mikko Markkula (FIN) Skoda Fabia R5 (WRC 2) 1hr 53min 43.7sec

Ends

For further media information:
Rally Guanajuato Corona 2016, Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, E-mail: Adrian@rallymexico.com or ndppublicity@googlemail.com, Tel: + 52 (477) 771-4961 or + 52 (477) 771-4978.
www.wrc.com
www.rallymexico.com

 

 


 

Date issued: 04/03/2016

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