WRC Sensational Saturday performance gives Latvala big lead in Mexico
RALLY GUANAJUATO CORONA 2016, March 3-6, 2016
2016 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Saturday, March 5th, 2016
LATVALA DELIVERS SENSATIONAL SATURDAY
DISPLAY TO SURGE CLEAR IN RALLY MEXICO
· Resigned Ogier in a solid second place; Hyundai’s Sordo comfortable in third
· Finland’s Suninen at a canter in WRC 2; Poland’s Ptaszak holds second place
LEÓN (Mexico): Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala delivered one of his greatest single day performances to storm into a comfortable lead after 19 of the 21 special stages of Rally Guanajuato Corona, round three of the FIA World Rally Championship, on Saturday.
The Volkswagen Polo R WRC driver won all six of the gravel stages that constituted the important competitive action of the day and turned an overnight lead of 31.2 seconds into a substantial advantage of 1min 35.7sec over a somewhat resigned triple World Champion Sébastien Ogier.
Both drivers played their tyre choice card well on the varied gravel surfaces, but running first on the road for a second day cost Ogier dearly and Latvala and navigator Miikka Anttila drilled home their advantage from six places further back in the running order, the duo benefiting from improved tyre grip and cleaner racing lines.
Latvala said: “The feeling in the car has been brilliant. The way Miikka has been reading the notes has been superb. It is a nice feeling. Everything has come together. One second per kilometre difference for tomorrow. It gives me a little margin not to take risks and I can back off a little if the brakes are overheating and I’m not quite sure in a corner.”
“For me, I did not have a chance from the start,” said Ogier. “Being first on the road is not easy and I also have to avoid the animals - goats, cows and then dogs. There is nothing left for me to get. I will push on the Power Stage to get more points. That’s all I can do.”
Hyundai Motorsport had prevented Volkswagen from taking a clean sweep of the podium places into Saturday’s stages. Spaniard Dani Sordo found it difficult to control his i20 WRC at times on hard compound tyres on slippery gravel, but he reached the overnight halt in third, 2min 08.4sec clear of M-Sport’s Mads Østberg’s (Ford Fiesta RS) after VW’s Andreas Mikkelsen crashed out of fourth place 10km from the end of SS15.
Swiping the rear of the car and damaging a toe arm cost Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon dearly and the Kiwi ceded his position to Østberg earlier in the day. Paddon was a solid fifth.
Estonian Ott Tanak was sixth in the DMACK World Rally Team Ford Fiesta and privateer World Rally Car drivers Martin Prokop and Lorenzo Bertelli were seventh and eighth, although a returning Mexican Benito Guerra was more than a match for the pair on several stages after restarting under Rally 2 regulations.
“It has been really good for me the last stages,” enthused Guerra. “The times have been good and I feel confident with the car. The guys from Motorsport Italia have done a great job. I think the long stage on Sunday will be good for me. I have the mental energy and I am ready.”
Teemu Suninen had never been to Mexico before, but the unflappable young Finn found himself with a massive WRC 2 advantage to take into the final morning. As his rivals fell by the wayside, ninth-placed Suninen drove at a measured pace in his Skoda Fabia R5 to hold ninth overall and a massive lead over Poland’s Hubert Ptaszak (Peugeot 208) of 19min 05.9sec. Italian Max Rendina was a distant third.
Saturday – as it happened
Twenty-seven of the original 28 starters were given permission to begin section four of the 13th Rally Guanajuato Corona, commencing with the 30.38km of Ibarrilla. Only Radik Shaymiev of the Republic of Tatarstan was an official retirement from WRC 2, although Qatar’s Khalid Al-Suwaidi felt unwell and opted not to restart, even though his Ford Fiesta’s drive shaft had been repaired.
Twenty-one cars had finished all 10 special stages on Thursday evening and Friday and five eventually re-joined under Rally 2, including Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, the leading Mexican duo of Guerra and Ricardo Trivino and WRC 2 entrant Armin Kremer.
After penalties had been added for missing stages on Friday, Neuville was classified in 24th overall, Guerra and Trivino were 23rd and 26th and Kremer moved into 19th. Guerra still complained of slight neck pain after the huge jump that brought about his demise in the Las Minas stage on Friday.
Ogier was again first on the road for the longest day of the event and trailed Latvala by 31.2 seconds. The Finn also had the advantage of running seventh on the stages. Ogier opted for soft compound tyres and carded a time of 18min 01.6sec on a stage that was run in reverse to last year.
But running later on the road was far more of an advantage on this occasion and, despite clipping a rock near the stage finish, Latvala scorched through to beat his rival by 19.8 seconds and extend his advantage to 51.9 seconds. “I was going well until the end and I clipped a rock. Straight after I thought we had a puncture. My heart was pumping, but I was surprised to take so much time. I expected to be equal in this stage,” said Latvala.
M-Sport’s Eric Camilli crashed two kilometres from the end of the special and Nicolas Fuchs also hit trouble. That enabled runaway WRC 2 leader Suninen to extend his advantage at a canter, despite the Finn admitting that it was difficult to find a good rhythm. By stage end, Suninen’s lead had climbed to 8min 36.3sec over Al-Kuwari, while Ptaszek rose to third.
The first of two runs through the Otates stage of 42.62km was next on the agenda and offered Latvala a perfect opportunity to hammer home his advantage. Ogier admitted he was driving on his limit and clocked the target of 30min 01.15sec, but Latvala capitalised fully on his road position, despite the brakes overheating slightly, and extended his advantage to 1min 13.6sec with a stunning time.
Paddon clouted the rear-left of his Hyundai, damaged a suspension toe arm and struggled through the remainder of the stage, the resultant delay dropping him behind Østberg into sixth and into the potential reach of Tanak. Mikkelsen was putting Sordo under pressure and closed to within 15.5 seconds of the Spaniard’s third place.
But Neuville’s miserable rally ended 38km into the stage. The Belgian had been second quickest on the first test of the day, but crashed heavily out of the event and appeared later in the day in a precautionary neck brace. Kremer also fell foul of reported rear suspension damage.
Suninen’s WRC 2 lead grew to a massive 12min 48.3sec over Ptaszak after Al-Kuwari shed a wheel and retired.
There was more loose gravel for Ogier to sweep in El Brinco and the Frenchman was resigned to dropping more time to Latvala. “I am happy and have done everything I could this morning. What can I do? It could be two minutes difference (Latvala’s advantage) at the end of the day.”
The Finn extended his lead by 2.7 seconds to 1min 16.3sec and headed off to service to make minor adjustments to the Polo’s rear brakes before the afternoon’s stages.
Guerra was running well, flying the flag proudly for the host nation and setting excellent times against fellow World Rally Car privateers Prokop and Bertelli. “El Brinco was a fantastic stage. It is like playing a video game. The atmosphere and the people - it is the essence of Rally Mexico,” said Guerra.
Mikkelsen was reported to have incurred a one-minute road penalty for clocking into Service E early and that enabled Sordo to tighten his grip on third position, as Ogier headed into the first run through the 16.47km of Aqua Zarca. The Frenchman survived a sideways moment, but admitted that he was resigned to his second position and eased his pace somewhat. Latvala was pressing on regardless and another fastest time saw his lead grow to 1min 21.9sec.
Mikkelsen crashed off the road 32km into Otates and that cemented Sordo’s grip on third place and lifted Østberg into fourth. Latvala won his fifth successive gravel stage of the day to increase his lead to 1min 34.1sec heading to the second run through El Brinco. There was no respite for his rivals either and Latvala reached the remaining three spectators specials with a lead of 1min 36.3sec.
Honours in the three super specials on Saturday evening fell to Sordo and Ogier won the last two. They entertained the large crowds, but had little impact on the overall leader board.
Crews tackle only two special stages on Sunday, but they are the most important specials of the entire event for very different reasons. Action gets underway with the monster Guanajuato special that features link sections of several other timed tests and runs for 80km. It is the largest single special stage that has been used on the FIA World Rally Championship since 1986, selective sections on the Kenyan Safari and Ivory Coast rallies aside.
Action draws to a close with the 16.47km of the Aqua Zarca Power Stage, with additional championship points available to the fastest three drivers on the traditionally televised special.
Rally Guanajuato Corona 2016 – positions after SS19 @ 21.32hrs:
1. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 3hr 27min 22.8sec
2. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 3hr 28min 58.5sec
3. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai New i20 WRC 3hr 30min 03.2sec
4. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3hr 32min 11.6sec
5. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai New i20 WRC 3hr 33min 04.9sec
6. Ott Tanak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3hr 35min 13.3sec
7. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tománek (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3hr 36min 46.3sec
8. Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA)/Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3hr 37min 42.3sec
9. Teemu Suninen (FIN)/Mikko Markkula (FIN) Skoda Fabia R5 (WRC 2) 3hr 39min 56.5sec
10. Hubert Ptaszak (POL)/Maciek Szczepaniak (POL) Peugeot 208 T16 (WRC 2) 3hr 59min 02.4sec
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, Tel: + 52 (477) 771-4961 or + 52 (477) 771-4978.