WRC – LATVALA SETS THE PACE IN MEXICO | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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After non-point scoring finishes in the first two rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship, Jari-Matti Latvala is finally back at the top of his game and leads Rally Mexico after the first full day of competition. The Finn heads Volkswagen team-mate Sébastien Ogier by 32.1 seconds with Hyundai’s Dani Sordo flying the flag for the Korean manufacturer in third.

Rally Mexico got underway last night in spectacular style, the opening ceremony and street stage in Guanajuato one of the highlights of the season. Thierry Neuville took the win on the short 1.09 kilometre stage in the UNESCO World Heritage designated city, but Ogier took the lead after the following two super special stages en route back to the overnight halt in Leon.

Today, however, the crews headed into the mountains for the first proper gravel stages of the event, and this is where Latvala started to open up his advantage. Running eighth on the road, the Finn was able to benefit from cleaner roads and wins in the opening 54.21 kilometre stage and the following 15.36 kilometre test gave him a healthy lead. This afternoon he once again blitzed the opposition, racking up the same stage victories to head the field overnight. Running first on the dusty mountain roads, Ogier coped well this morning and minimised the time loss to keep within shouting distance of Latvala. This afternoon the Frenchman was again on the limit, pushing to the maximum in his 100th WRC event, and was happy there was little more he could have done to catch his charging team-mate. Sordo has not been entirely happy with the car set-up today and struggled with a sticking throttle this afternoon, lucky to keep the car on the road on a few occasions.

Andreas Mikkelsen is fourth and, while the Norwegian made a few mistakes this morning, he bounced back with a fastest time in the mid-day Leon Street Stage. He has struggled this afternoon, however, with an overshoot and a strange feeling with the balance of the car. Hayden Paddon, sixth this morning, has climbed to fifth, overhauling Mads Østberg this afternoon despite an off into a ditch when the car filled with dust. Østberg had a bad start to the day with what he described as the worst tyre choice of his career. He lost over a minute in the first stage and has been playing catch up since, a 10 second penalty for a jump start also not helping his challenge. Ott Tanak is seventh; he had a spin this afternoon and a suspected broken differential. Martin Prokop, in this first WRC event of the season, is eighth and Lorenzo Bertelli holds ninth. The top 10 is rounded off by Finn Teemu Suninen who also leads the FIA WRC 2 Championship category. As in Sweden, Michel Fabre is the sole contender in the FIA WRC 3 Championship category and the Frenchman continues his challenge for maximum points in Mexico.

Early casualties in the event include Thierry Neuville who hit a bank in the opening stage and broke the suspension arm, and local hero Benito Guerra, the Mexican also damaging the suspension on his Fiesta after a jump. Eric Camilli lost a huge amount of time in the first stage with a puncture and is over 10 minutes adrift of the front of the field in only his eighth gravel rally.

Rally Mexico – Unofficial results after Section 3

1.   Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila

Volkswagen Polo R WRC

1hr 48min 00.0 sec

2.   Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia

Volkswagen Polo R WRC

1hr 48min 32.1sec

3.   Dani Sordo/Marc Marti

Hyundai i20 WRC

1hr 49min 15.6sec

4.   Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger

Volkswagen Polo R WRC

1hr 49min 46.7sec

5.   Hayden Paddon/John Kennard

Hyundai i20 WRC

1hr 50min 20.8sec

6.   Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 50min 35.6sec

7.   Ott Tanak/Raigo Molder

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 51min 53.8sec

8.   Martin Prokop/Jan Tomanek

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 52min 56.3sec

9.   Lorenzo Bertelli/Simone Scattolin

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 53min 11.3sec

10. Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula

Skoda Fabia R5

1hr 53min 43.7sec