WRC Ogier remains on track for fifth victory in Rally Guanajuato Mexico
RALLY GUANAJUATO MÉXICO, March 7-10, 2019
2019 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Saturday, March 9th, 2019
OGIER REMAINS ON TRACK FOR FIFTH VICTORY IN RALLY GUANAJUATO MÉXICO
· Toyota’s Tänak begins to turn the screw on M-Sport Ford’s Evans
· Massive WRC 2 category advantage for local hero Benito Guerra
LEÓN (México): Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia remain firmly on course for a fifth victory in Rally Guanajuato México after another pulsating day’s action over nine special stages on Saturday.
The Citroën C3 crew will take a lead of 27 seconds into the remaining three gravel stages on Sunday, as they bid to reduce Ott Tänak’s early season lead in the Drivers’ Championship. Ogier managed his pace to perfection to stay out of trouble to claim one outright stage win on the day and cement his name at the top of the standings for a second day, despite sliding into the barriers on the first run through the super special at the nearby Autodromo.
Ogier said: “I have been pushing all day, but I did a silly mistake on the first loop (SS16) and maybe lose six or seven seconds. It was very wet compared to the stage yesterday under the braking. I did not expect the low grip and I stop in the tyre wall. We also had a small problem with the centre differential, so I am glad that we had the service at the end of the day. The guys behind are fighting hard so it will be a big battle again tomorrow.”
Tänak began the morning 37.1 seconds behind the defending World Champion and in fourth position, but the Estonian went on a charge in the heat of a Mexican afternoon. After passing team-mate Kris Meeke – when the Ulsterman suffered a puncture and a suspension upright issue – the Toyota Yaris WRC driver began to pressurise Elfyn Evans as the afternoon progressed. The Welshmen held on to his position at the end of the day but a mere 2.2 seconds separate the two heading into Sunday.
“It’s been a very good afternoon,” said Tänak. “Everything is working well, but tomorrow is another day.”
Thierry Neuville admitted that he was struggling to find his rhythm and the confidence to challenge for stage wins in his i20 Coupe WRC, but the Belgian held fourth overall at the night halt, 3min 21.4sec ahead of Kris Meeke who had fallen back from third with that puncture and resultant complications during the morning loop and then slid wide at the Autodromo on SS17 and dropped another 45 seconds and then limped around the final street stage stuck in second gear.
Mexican Benito Guerra delivered a body blow to Bolivian youngster Marco Bulacia’s aspirations of preventing a home WRC 2 victory with several impressive stage performances during the course of the day.
Guerra was 12.5 seconds ahead at the midday break and, despite the Bolivian checking his morning’s loop from the video footage at the lunch halt to try and gain an advantage, the 18-year-old stopped for over three minutes in SS13 and Chile’s Alberto Heller accepted the gift to storm into second place before stopping himself on two occasions in SS14. Guerra returned to León in sixth overall and 3min 33.6sec ahead of Bulacia in WRC 2.
Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala began a charge through the tail-enders as the day progressed in a bid to catch the WRC 2 runners. He held eighth at the end of the day.
Running at the front of the field was always going to be a struggle for both Andreas Mikkelsen and Dani Sordo and the Hyundai duo were classified in 10th and 11th at the night halt with Mexico’s Ricardo Triviño running strongly in ninth in his Škoda Fabia R5.
Poland’s Lukasz Pieniazek soldiers on as the lone ranger in the WRC 2 Pro category. He returned to action on Saturday morning after issues on Friday and remains on course for maximum championship points.
Citroen’s Esapekka Lappi lost fifth place when he left the road in the opening stage of the morning at Guanajuatito and the Yaris spun across part of the track, became wedged on the side of the road and forced rally officials to red flag the special on safety grounds.
Saturday – as it happened
The longest leg of the rally got underway with the 25.90km of the Guanajuatito stage. Of day one’s retirements, only Teemu Suninen failed to rejoin the fray as Mikkelsen was given road-cleaning duties and rally leader Ogier started from ninth on the road in the defence of his 14.8-second lead.
Hanging dust and narrow, deceptive corners made the opener quite difficult and Meeke managed to clock the fastest time of 17min 44.9sec. But the stage was red-flagged after Lappi spun and came to rest across part of the track with the rear of the car balancing off the edge of the stage.
Lady luck was shining on Ogier though, as the Frenchman had sustained a front-right puncture and was going to drop substantial time to his rivals until he was red-flagged at the end of the special. Meeke’s storming time enabled the Ulsterman to displace Ogier and Evans and take the outright lead for the first time.
But there was no respite in the drama: Meeke opted to drive through the next Otates stage with a rear puncture and the Yaris driver dropped 1min 36.6sec to Ogier and lost his short-lived overall lead.
Notional times imposed by rally officials for SS10 had seen Ogier handed a time of 18min 07.3sec, but the performance in Otates gave the Frenchman a 15.5-second advantage over Evans. Meeke slipped to fifth and Tänak and Neuville moved up to third and fourth overall, as Latvala clocked the fastest time. Guerra edged into a 2.9-second advantage over Bulacia in WRC 2 and held a stunning sixth overall.
The sprint through the loose gravel of El Brinco preceded a return to service in León. Meeke limped through the special with a rear upright issue. Evans continued to pressurise Ogier, but the Frenchman extended his advantage over his former team-mate to 19.2 seconds with the joint fastest time with a resurgent Latvala. A flying Guerra moved 12.5 seconds clear of Bulacia with the quickest WRC 2 time.
Tänak planned the grand attack to try and reel in Evans and grab second place, but the Welshman had other ideas on the second run through Guanajuatito and managed to beat the Estonian by 0.6 seconds to tighten his grip on second place to 22.4 seconds.
Ogier was not to be denied, however, and the Frenchman won the stage to extend his overall lead to 22.9 seconds. A costly stoppage proved unlucky on the 13th stage for Bulacia and Guerra inherited a massive lead of 2min 28.4sec in WRC 2 over Alberto Heller.
Tänak had the bit between his teeth on the sandier surface of the rerun of Otates and his determination was rewarded with a fastest time that reduced Evans’s grasp on second place to just 5.8 seconds, as the Welshman struggled for grip on hard tyres. He also closed to within 36.2 seconds of leader Ogier. Alberto Heller ceded further time to Guerra in the WRC 2 class, as Bulacia recovered from his previous stage delays to set the quickest time.
Tänak lost his rear bumper in the loose gravel near the finish of El Brinco, but he was still able to shave another two seconds off Evans’s grasp on second place. The rivals headed to the V-Power Shell stages at the Autodromo separated by 3.8 seconds. Meeke survived a half-spin under braking and retained fifth, while Ogier held a lead of 31.4 seconds to take to the three super specials at the end of the leg.
Three stages bring the action to a conclusion on Sunday. Teams tackle the 24.38km of Alfaro and then a new Mesa Cuata special of 25.07km that uses a large section of El Chocolate. The points-scoring Power Stage at Las Minas brings the action to a conclusion from 12.18hrs (local time).
2019 Rally Guanajuato México – positions after SS18 (unofficial @ 20.50hrs):
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Citroën C3 WRC 2hrs 57min 21.4sec
2. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Scott Martin (GBR) Ford Fiesta WRC 2hrs 57min 48.4sec
3. Ott Tänak (EST)/Martin Järveoja (EST) Toyota Yaris WRC 2hrs 57min 50.6sec
4. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2hrs 58min 37.1sec
5. Kris Meeke (GBR)/Sebastian Marshall (GBR) Toyota Yaris WRC 3hrs 01min 58.5sec
6. Benito Guerra (MEX)/Jaime Zapata (MEX) Škoda Fabia R5 (WRC 2) 3hrs 09min 27.4sec
7. Marco Bulacia (BOL)/Fabian Cretu (ARG) Škoda Fabia R5 (WRC 2) 3hrs 13min 01.0sec
8. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC 3hrs 13min 53.8sec
9. Ricardo Triviño (MEX)/Marc Marti (ESP) Škoda Fabia R5 (WRC 2) 3hrs 19min 21.0sec
10. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Carlos del Barrio (ESP) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3hrs 19min 21.1sec
For further media information:
Rally Guanajuato México 2019, Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, México, E-mail: Adrian@rallymexico.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.