WRC - Ogier weathers Meeke’s charge to retake Rally Mexico lead | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - Ogier weathers Meeke’s charge to retake Rally Mexico lead

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09.03.19.

Rally Mexico - Saturday morning

Rally Mexico 2019 - Saturday morning - S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia

Citroën’s Sébastien Ogier weathered a brief charge from Toyota’s Kris Meeke - and a puncture - to retake the lead of Rally Mexico from the Northern Irishman. M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans is still second while championship leader Ott Tänak completes the provisional top three on Round 3 of the FIA World Rally Championship.
 
Saturday’s morning loop of three stages – Guanajuatito, the rally’s longest stage Otates and El Brinco – were even dustier than those on Friday, giving Hyundai pair Andreas Mikkelsen and Dani Sordo even more road sweeping to do in comparison to Tänak the day before. As usual for Mexico, sunny weather meant warm conditions for all the crews.
 
A dark cloud was looming over Citroën, however, as trouble struck both C3 WRCs. Esapekka Lappi ran wide only a few corners before the finish of Guanajuatito, falling backwards off the line and leaving his C3 stuck hanging off the road, unable to move.
 
Ogier also hit trouble in the same stage, picking up a front right puncture. Its effect was partly neutralised by a red flag deployed by rally control due to Lappi’s stranded car while he was still running through the stage.
 
Meeke won the stage outright and, after a notional time was handed to Ogier to make up for over a minute in time loss caused by the red flag, the Toyota driver had moved into the lead, passing both Ogier and Evans in one swoop.
 
It most cases Ogier’s notional time would be based on that of another competitor but, instead of receiving the time handed to Jari-Matti Latvala, who had also been affected by the red flag, he was awarded a time 22.4s slower than Meeke’s stage-winning effort, with his puncture taken into consideration by rally control. However, his notional time is still subject to review, depending on times set on this afternoon’s pass of the same stage.
 
Though Meeke had inherited the lead it would be a short lived spell at the front, as he sustained a right rear puncture on the following Otates test. He dropped over a minute and a half and fell to fifth place, reinstating Ogier to the lead. He dropped a further 1m45.9s on El Brinco, cruising through the stage with suspension damage sustained along with his puncture on the prior test. This handed second place back to M-Sport’s sole remaining driver Evans, who ceded time to Ogier on both the Otates and El Brinco stages. Evans is now 19.2s in arrears to Ogier heading to midday service.
 
Meeke’s woes benefitted his Toyota team-mate Ott Tänak, the championship leader moving up to third place after spending Friday struggling with road sweeping duties. Tänak is 41s behind Ogier and 21.8s off second-placed Evans, though holds a comfortable 38.5s advantage over fourth placed Thierry Neuville.
 
Hyundai’s sole remaining car in the top 10 was the first WRC car to hit trouble when Neuville picked up a puncture on Friday’s El Chocolate test. But he has steadily climbed the leaderboard as rivals have faltered, and is now well clear of fifth-placed Meeke, with an advantage of 2m01.7s.
 
Local favourite Benito Guerra charged to the lead of the FIA WRC 2 category and is sixth overall, scoring two stage wins from two this morning to demote Bolivian hotshot Marco Bulacia Wilkinson to second in class and seventh overall.

Bulacia Wilkinson had gone into Saturday with a 9.8s advantage, which remained in place after Guanajuatito this morning as both were affected by the red flag and handed identical notional times. Guerra dominated both Otates and El Brinco thereafter, making up 22.3s across the two stages to build a 12.5s advantage over his fellow Škoda Fabia R5 pilot.
 
Chile’s Alberto Heller completes the FIA WRC 2 podium places in eighth overall, nearly five minutes adrift of Guerra and Bulacia Wilkinson. Despite a one minute penalty, eight time FIA NACAM rally champion Ricardo Triviño is ninth, though being caught quickly by Jari-Matti Latvala.
 
Currently last of the Yaris WRC trio, Latvala retired late on Friday with an alternator failure but restarted this morning in 12th. Thanks to Lappi’s retirement and passing Ricardo Cordero, he is already up to 10th, only 38.5s behind Triviño.
 
Hyundai pair Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen also restarted on Saturday, running 11th and 16th respectively.