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Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #1

Next Rnd3 WRC Mexico Mar 7-10

Mexico hosts the first gravel event, with a couple of exciting new stages for 2013. In total there will be 23 stages over a competitive distance of 397 kilometres. The monster Guanajuatito stage will again be the longest of the rally, increasing in length very slightly to 54.9 kilometres.

Following the traditional 1.5-kilometre Guanajuato Street Stage in the Mexican city - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - on the evening of Thursday 7 March, crews will also tackle a new 2.16-kilometre test through Guanajuato’s Bicentennial Park, which was built two years ago between the cities of Guanajuato, Leon and Silao to celebrate 200 years of Mexican independence.

In other changes, the introduction of the new 31 kilometres El Chocolate test on Friday 8 March brings the day’s competitive running to 161 kilometres, while the Derramadero stage has been more than doubled in length to form the event’s Power Stage on Sunday 10 March. Meanwhile, the Leon Street Stage will be included on Friday and Saturday, while the Super Special Stage at Leon’s racing circuit will be pressed into action on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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I'll be watching for your posts on this event for sure! I got to visit Guanajuato a few years ago, it's a beautiful town. Too bad I couldn't be there during the rally. :(

Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Hirvonen fastest on Mexico Qualifying

Citroen DS3 driver Mikko Hirvonen has given himself the best possible start to Rally Mexico by winning this morning's Qualifying Stage.

The Finn, who drives for the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi team, was 0.7sec faster than anybody else through the 6.27-kilometre test in the Llano Grande region, 20km away from the rally base in Leon.

Ford Fiesta RS driver Evgeny Novikov was second fastest, with Mads Ostberg and Thierry Neuville – also in Fiestas - joint third, 2.5sec further back.

Hirvonen, who this weekend takes over from Sebastien Loeb as Citroen team leader, used Michelin’s soft compound Latitude Cross tyre for the qualifying session and will get first choice of road position for Friday’s opening day of the rally.

“It was a good clear drive, so I just need to try to do that on all the stages,” said Hirvonen. “Everything worked perfectly. I was maybe a little surprised that some people went on a hard tyre but for us it worked fine so I’m happy with my tyre choice.”

Novikov felt he could have gone quicker, and admitted to a couple of small mistakes. Ostberg also admitted to making one small mistake but remained confident about the weekend ahead. Neuville said the stage had been very rough and that he had hit a lot of big stones.

Championship leader Sebastien Ogier was fifth-quickest in his Volkswagen Polo R, 3.9sec slower than Hirvonen. Hirvonen’s Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo was sixth, with Jari-Matti Latvala seventh in the second Volkswagen.

Ogier and Latvala were the only two drivers to use the hard compound tyre for qualifying, a decision which in hindsight Latvala felt was wrong. “Soft would have been the best option,” he said. “Looking at what qualifying means for the weekend, was it clever to have run hard compound or not? I don’t know but it’s too late, we’ve done it now.”

Crews will select their starting positions for Friday’s stages from 13:00hrs local time.

Here are the Qualifying Stage times of the WRC crews:

1: Hirvonen. Citroen DS3 WRC. 03:57.2
2: Novikov. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 03:57.9 (+0.7)
=3: Neuville. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 04:00.4 (+3.2)
=3: Ostberg. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 04:00.4 (+3.2)
5: Ogier. Volkswagen Polo R WRC. 4:01.1 (+3.9)
6: Sordo. Citroen DS3 WRC. 04:01.2 (+4.0)
7: Latvala. Volkswagen Polo R WRC. 04:01.5 (+4.3)
=8: Atkinson. Citroen DS3 WRC. 04:01.6 (+4.4)
=8: Al Attiyah. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 04:01.6 (+4.4)
10: Block. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 04:06.6 (+9.4)
11: Guerra. Citroen DS3 WRC. 04:09.4 (+12.2)
12: Prokop. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 04:12.2 (+15.0)
13: Kosciuszko. MINI Countryman JCW. 04:14.2 (+17.0)



Start Order

Rally Mexico qualifying stage winner Mikko Hirvonen has opted to run as far down the start order as possible for the opening leg.

The Finn, quickest by 0.7sec in his Citroen DS3 this morning, unsurprisingly chose to start 13th and last of the top priority drivers to take advantage of the best available road conditions.

Dry, hot weather in the mountains surrounding the rally base of Leon mean tomorrow’s high altitude stages will be covered in slippery loose gravel for the early starters.

As the stones are swept clear, the hard roads become cleaner and faster and those further back in the start order have a distinct advantage.

Hirvonen said: “It's quite easy, I want to be as far back as I can be. Normally here it's really dry and the surface is really hard so road position plays a big role,” he said.

Behind Hirvonen it was a case of follow the leader. Second quickest Evgeny Novikov chose 12th in his Ford Fiesta RS, with third fastest Thierry Neuville opting for 11th in a similar car. All the remaining drivers chose the next lowest position available.

Following the selection process in front of fans in the service park, Ilka Minor was presented with a special plaque to commemorate her 100th WRC start. The Qatar M-Sport World Rally team co-driver, who partners Evgeny Novikov, received the plaque from team director Malcolm Wilson.

The start order for the opening leg is:

1. Michal Kosciuszko
2. Martin Prokop
3. Benito Guerra
4. Ken Block
5. Nasser Al-Attiyah
6. Chris Atkinson
7. Jari-Matti Latvala
8. Dani Sordo
9. Sebastien Ogier
10. Mads Ostberg
11. Thierry Neuville
12. Evgeny Novikov
13. Mikko Hirvonen



Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Thurs Night Opening Stages 1 & 2

Ogier Leads

Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier took a win apiece in the opening two stages, but it was Ogier who returned to Leon tonight with the rally lead.

He was fourth in Guanajuato in a Volkswagen Polo R, just 0.5sec behind the Ford Fiesta RS of Neuville. But fastest in the second stage promoted him into top spot overall, 0.3sec ahead of the Fiesta RS of Mads Ostberg.

Ostberg was second behind Neuville in Guanajuato, tied with Nasser Al-Attiyah’s similar Fiesta. Behind Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Chris Atkinson were fifth equal.

Mikko Hirvonen was second in Parque Bicentenario, just a tenth of a second behind Ogier, the Finn regaining time after almost stalling on the startline of the opening test.

Ostberg was third, with Dani Sordo, Neuville and Atkinson rounding off the top six.

Behind Ostberg in the overall standings is Neuville, only 0.6sec from the lead, with Hirvonen in fourth. Sordo and Atkinson complete the top six.

Both Atkinson and Ken Block clipped a kerb inside Guanajuato’s tunnel, Block sheepishly admitting it was the same stone he hit last year. Neither Atkinson’s Citroen DS3 nor Block’s Ford Fiesta RS were damaged. Latvala stalled at the start of the second stage.

Competitors restart at 06.15 tomorrow for a morning loop comprising five stages and 78.78km. The action on the opening 21.91km El Cubilete begins at 07.23.






Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #5

SS3: Early exit for Latvala

Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala is out of Friday’s competition on Rally Mexico after his car struck a rock just 500 metres into the opening stage.

Reports suggest the rock had been flicked into the middle of the road by another car before Latvala’s Volkswagen Polo R hit it, breaking a front suspension wishbone.

Friday’s opener turned out to be a mixed affair for Volkswagen, with the squad’s second driver Sebastien Ogier taking the stage win to extend his overall lead of the rally. “It was okay, a clean drive, but I’m not quite happy with the car set-up yet,” said Ogier.

Ford Fiesta RS driver Mads Ostberg was second fastest, five seconds slower than Ogier, and also feeling he had some set-up work to do. “The car is over-steering a lot so I’m having to work all the way, I need to make some adjustments, I can’t drive it like this,” he explained.

Thierry Neuville, also in a Fiesta, was third quickest, 2.1sec off Ostberg’s pace. The Belgian said he had adopted a cautious approach after encountering a lot of loose rocks in the road.

Citroen team-leader Mikko Hirvonen was fourth fastest, and frustrated with an opening stage time that was 10.4sec slower than Ogier. “I had a bad start on the tarmac section. I was not driving well and lost a load of time on the cobbles. Okay, we need to catch up now,” he said.

Evgeny Novikov had a terrible start to the day when his Ford Fiesta stopped mid stage with an electrical problem. The Russian dropped more than seven minutes before tweaks to his car’s ECU brought it to life again and he could complete the stage.

Chris Atkinson was seventh fastest and arrived at the stage end with his Citroen DS3 sporting a cracked front bumper and a damaged left-hand front wheel. “We clipped a rock in the inside of a corner. It felt like a puncture but it looks okay,” he explained.

After the two Super Specials on Thursday night, El Cubilete was Benito Guerra’s first ‘proper’ stage in a World Rally Car and the Mexican completed it in the ninth fastest time. “That was fun to drive but running third in the start order there’s still a lot of dirt on the road and it’s tricky to find the lines of the guys ahead and get traction,” said the Citroen DS3 driver. “The second pass should be much better.”

Running first on the road, Michal Kosciuszko reported an intermittent lack of power from his Mini JCW’s engine.

click: ss3


SS4: Ostberg goes fastest to take lead

Mads Ostberg powered to fastest time in his Ford Fiesta RS to move into the lead of the rally. The Norwegian was quickest by 2.7sec and that was enough to give him a 1.4sec advantage at the head of the overall standings.

Ostberg was unhappy with his Fiesta’s set-up in the previous test but felt more comfortable here.

“The set-up isn’t perfect but it’s better. On the high-speed sections it’s not so good, but it’s better on the low-speed parts. There’s a hole in the floor and a lot of dust in the car and I’m struggling to see. I used the wipers a lot but it didn’t help,” he said.

Mikko Hirvonen was second in the stage in his Citroen DS3 and that promoted him to third overall. He passed the limping Evgeny Novikov in the stage and admitted: “I lost a few seconds in the dust behind Novikov, but that was much better.”

Sebastien Ogier was next up, the Frenchman 6.7sec behind Ostberg. The Volkswagen Polo R dropped almost eight seconds to Ostberg in the opening split alone, but denied any problems. He is second overall, 7.5sec ahead of Hirvonen.

Belgium’s Thierry Neuville was fourth and lies fourth overall in his Fiesta RS. He was conscious of managing his tyres over the long loop of five stages, explaining: “There were a lot of rocks on the road. I tried not to use the tyres too much.”

Dani Sordo’s Citroen DS3 and the Fiesta RS of Nasser Al-Attiyah rounded off the top six in both the stage and the leaderboard.

Novikov dropped more than four minutes in his Fiesta RS to add to the time loss on the opening stage. The Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team believes it could be a continuation of the issue which forced him to change the engine’s ECU in the previous test.

Chris Atkinson was 21 minutes late starting the stage after working furiously on the liaison section to repair broken steering on his Citroen DS3. The Australian hit a rock in the previous stage and his late arrival at Las Minas cost 3min 30sec in penalties.

click: ss4


Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
SS5: Ostberg edges ahead

Another fastest time from Mads Ostberg on the Los Mexicanos test enabled him to extend his overall lead to a slender 1.9sec, however Sebastien Ogier in second was keeping up the pressure.

Ostberg said clouds of dust inside the cockpit of his Fiesta RS had made it hard to see the stage properly but he was happier with the way the car was handling.

“We were going to adjust the set-up after the first stage today but actually we haven’t touched it,” said the Norwegian. “It seems better suited to these twisty stages, so I’m trying to gain as much as I can when it’s like this.”

Ogier was second fastest, 0.5sec adrift of Ostberg, in his Polo R and felt this was the best he could do from his position of eighth in the start order. “It was a good drive and I can’t go faster or push more. The road is still cleaning, improving car to car, so it’s better for the cars behind me,” he said.

Thierry Neuville was third quickest, 0.5sec slower than Ogier and satisfied with the pace he had found without reference to other competitors. “We’re not getting any split times in the car, so until we get to the end I don’t know whether my speed is good or not,’ he explained. “Looking at where we are though, so far it seems okay."

Mikko Hirvonen was fourth fastest in his Citroen DS3, with Evgeny Novikov rounding off the top five times. Novikov’s Fiesta was back to full health after his earlier electrical problems were traced to a bad connection.

Chris Atkinson was eighth fastest, having made running repairs to his Citroen DS3. "We damaged the steering arm earlier and now I have really bad power steering. It won’t be easy but we should be able to get it through the next stage like this and back to service,” he said.

Benito Guerra had an anxious time on the stage when his Citroen’s driver display incorrectly reported that the car was on fire. “I was pretty sure we weren’t but it was quite a distraction,” he acknowledged. Guerra was 11th fastest.

click: ss5


SS6: Ogier lays down marker to rivals

Sebastien Ogier delivered a real statement of intent in the longest and most difficult stage of the leg by blitzing his rivals to reclaim the lead.

The Volkswagen Polo R pilot was quickest by 9.0sec from Mikko Hirvonen and headed back to Leon with an 11.8sec advantage at the top of the leaderboard. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Frenchman.

“I had no splits,” he said. “I had times for the cars ahead but not those behind me so I didn’t know what they were doing. It was very slippery with a lot of loose gravel and you have to be clean here. It’s long, and by the finish I just wanted to complete it.”

Hirvonen arrived at the finish with a cracked windscreen on his Citroen DS3 after clipping a branch. The Finn was surprised at how slippery the roads were, commenting: “It felt as if the tyres were going off.”

Thierry Neuville continued his consistent morning with third fastest, but the Belgian was another to have no splits coming into his Fiesta RS.

“I never know where I am. I took it carefully, maybe a bit too carefully. It’s three rallies that I have had this and it’s not so nice,” he said.

Fourth was Mads Ostberg and while that was enough to place him second overall, his frustration at losing the rally lead was clear.

“The car feels very, very strange. Maybe the tyres are overheating. I was sure I had a puncture so I slowed down at the end. I struggled with grip at the beginning. The car was too stiff for this stage and there was no traction,” he said.

Evgeny Novikov was fifth, his earlier problems now seemingly solved, and he also had a cracked windscreen on his Fiesta RS.

Rounding off the top six was Dani Sordo, but the Spaniard was another to cut a frustrated figure. “I drove really, really badly. It’s very slippery, narrow and difficult to stay in the lines and brake well,” he said.

Martin Prokop spun into a ditch in a narrow section and then lost the brakes on his Fiesta RS 10km from the finish. “It took a long time to get back on the road after the spin because it was a narrow place. When the brakes went I had to drive slowly because the road was narrow and dangerous,” he said.

click: ss6


SS7: Ogier leads in Mexico at Friday midpoint

Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier holds the lead of Rally Mexico at the midpoint of Friday’s competition, the Frenchman returning to service in Leon after SS7 with a 12.9 sec advantage over Ford Fiesta driver Mads Ostberg.

Ogier began today’s second leg in fourth after Thursday night’s two sprint tests, but converted this into a 5.3sec lead after a convincing stage win on the opening El Cubilete.

The Polo R driver lost the position on the next stage, however, when a fastest time from Ostberg moved him up to first. Ostberg took another stage win on SS5, but Ogier responded on the 30km El Chocolate test, completing it 13.7sec quicker than his rival to retake the lead.

The Frenchman rounded off the morning loop with a win on the short Street Stage in Leon. “Okay, we haven’t had the best road position but we’re leading the rally now, so we can be happy with that,” said Ogier.

“Considering the grip we had we have done a good job. Mads is going really well, he’s just behind. We have to work hard this afternoon to keep him there.”

Ostberg wasn’t always comfortable with the handling of his Fiesta RS but remains confident that he can catch Ogier. “I’ve been struggling with the set-up all the way but the times were good,” he said.

“It’s difficult to have a car that works well on both fast and slow corners here. We had a good run on the long one [SS6] but near the end I hit a rock and thought I had a puncture because the car felt strange. I slowed a bit but I think it was just the tyres overheating.

“I’m happy that we are still in the fight, we’ll refill our water bottle now and get out there again. I think I can match Ogier’s pace. After what we have done this morning it’s definitely possible,” he added.

Mikko Hirvonen is third, 5.3sec behind Ostberg in his Citroen DS3. The Finn was frustrated with his driving on Friday’s opener but improved as the day progressed and was Ogier’s closest rival on the El Chocolate stage.

Fiesta RS driver Thierry Neuville is fourth, 7.9sec behind Hirvonen and satisfied with his morning’s work. Without the benefit of split times in his car, the Belgian felt he had judged his pace well - with just one exception: “I lost 13 seconds on Las Minas [SS4] because I thought I needed to save my tyres more than I did,” he explained. “But we’re still in the fight with Mikko and Mads. We can go faster, but I don’t know if we should go faster…”

A disappointed Dani Sordo is fifth, 39sec adrift of Neuville and at a loss to explain how his Citroen team-mate Hirvonen was 30-seconds quicker than him through SS6.

Nasser Al Attiyah is sixth, with Ken Block seventh in his Hoonigan Racing Division Fiesta RS. “My last event was Finland last year, so it’s taken me a while to get familiar with the car again,” said Block. “I’m driving a bit too much sideways because of the loose stuff on the road, but I’m hoping the conditions will be cleaner for the repeat.”

Reigning P-WRC champion Benito Guerra is eighth on his first event in a World Rally Car. “I’m learning a lot and I’m satisfied with my first morning in the Citroen,” he said. “I’m still aiming to be the leading private driver here, and that means we now have Ken Block in our sights. We’re going to try to be progressive in our learning and increase our speed as we go on.”


After the opening seven stages, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari holds a healthy 1m.49.7sec lead of the WRC 2 category

Making his season debut in Mexico, the Qatari driver took the lead on Thursday night’s Super Special and has held it ever since, winning all but one of the tests so far in his state-of-the-art Ford Fiesta RRC.

Behind him, the fight is between a field of Group N specification cars. Armin Kremer is second, at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRX, with Nicolas Fuchs 9.1sec further back in third in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.

Yuriy Protasov was third overnight but dropped more than three minutes on Friday’s opener with a left-hand front puncture. He lost more time on SS6 when his Subaru’s power steering failed.

click: ss7


Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
SS8: Ogier nets three in a row

Sebastien Ogier claimed his third consecutive stage victory and looks increasingly comfortable at the top of the leaderboard with his advantage now up to 24.1sec.

The Frenchman won the stage by 3.7sec in his Volkswagen Polo R. Conditions were cleaner and more grippy than this morning and Ogier emphasised that by completing the test almost seven seconds faster than previously.

The downside of more grip is the potential for tyres to wear more quickly. However, Ogier seemed unperturbed and pointed to the presence of two hard compound spares in the rear of the car as a safety net.

Thierry Neuville claimed second fastest, the Belgian now receiving the split times of his rivals into his Fiesta RS. Such was his pace that he has closed to within 0.4sec of relegating Mikko Hirvonen from the final step of the podium.

Evgeny Novikov was third in the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS, the Russian admitting that his problems this morning meant his targets were limited. “I just have to keep going. There was good grip in the lines but if you go out of the lines then it’s not so good,” he said.

Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg were tied for fourth, the Finn at a loss to understand why his time was not better.

“I don’t know why I’m so slow on this stage,” said the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi team leader. “I thought I drove well, especially at the end.”

Ostberg was also concerned at his time, although if this morning is any guide, the set-up of his Fiesta RS is more suited to the following two tests. He was fastest on both in the first pass.

“It was very difficult to find my rhythm. I’m trying to drive cleanly and use the whole road but it’s not easy,” said the Norwegian.

Nasser Al-Attiyah completed the top six, the Qatari happier with the cleaner line this afternoon, but less pleased with the number of large rocks he encountered.

Martin Prokop was struggling as co-driver Michal Ernst was feeling unwell. “He has power and is losing concentration,” said Prokop.

click: ss8


SS9: Ostberg fastest on Las Minas repeat

In a repeat of his performance on the morning loop of stages, Mads Ostberg was the fastest driver through the second running of Las Minas, this time taking a 5.2sec bite out of Sebastien Ogier’s rally lead.

The Fiesta RS driver narrowed the gap to Ogier to 18.9sec, to keep himself within striking distance of his French rival. “I don’t know why we’ve done so well on this stage, I suppose it’s just a road I like,” Ostberg shrugged at the stage end.

“The swept line of the previous stage make it almost like tarmac, while this is a proper gravel stage and I really enjoy it. For sure we will keep trying to catch Ogier - I promise we are doing all we can. We will see on the next one, I will push there – and on the last one too,” he added.

Ogier was fourth fastest and seemingly unfazed by the Norwegian’s progress. “It’s okay, no problem,” he said. “This is one of the slower stages and we’ve lose some time, but there will be no change to our approach.“

In the battle for third, Hirvonen responded to Neuville’s pace on the previous stage by going second quickest and extending the gap between them from a perilous 0.4sec to a slightly more comfortable 5.2sec.

Neuville, however, blamed himself for some of the time loss. “I made a small mistake on a hairpin,” he explained. “We lost about 1.5 sec because there was lots of dust about and I couldn’t see anything. Generally though I’m feeling much more comfortable in the car. It’s going better and better.”

Behind Neuville, the gap to fifth placed Dani Sordo widened to 1min 04sec. At the stage end a deflated Sordo still couldn’t explain why.

click: ss9


SS10: Ostberg edges out Neuville

In a carbon copy of this morning’s loop, Mads Ostberg added victory in Los Mexicanos to his win in the previous stage at Las Minas.

The Norwegian was fastest by two-tenths of a second in his Ford Fiesta RS from the similar car of Thierry Neuville. With Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Ogier tucked in just behind, the fastest four drivers were covered by just seven-tenths of a second.

Ostberg reduced Ogier’s lead to 18.2sec but as the times were so close, there were no major moves at the top end of the leaderboard.

Ostberg admitted he lost a little time in the second half of the stage. “I was driving perfectly and can’t push any harder but the character of the roads was different,” he said.

Neuville appeared relaxed at the finish. “So far, so good,” he said. “It was a nice stage and the engine and the car worked well. We swapped tyres before the stage and I think I can manage to get through the next test without any tyre problems.”

Hirvonen was third, 0.5sec behind Ostberg, and it was clear he had put in a real effort. “I really tried to take some time out of the boys but the Fords are going very fast and Ogier is consistent,” he said.

Ogier was fourth, but the Frenchman ceded only 0.7sec to Ostberg. He, too, was relaxed but admitted that perhaps the Fiestas were quicker than his Polo R in twisty sections.

Evgeny Novikov was fifth in his Fiesta RS, 2.3sec behind Ostberg. The Russian conceded he wouldn’t attack after his morning problems. “I have no reason to do so. I’ll try to keep a good speed, but it’s quite difficult after what happened this morning.

Sixth fastest was Dani Sordo, the Spaniard a little more upbeat after a lacklustre day in his Citroen DS3. “We put two spares tyres on the front and changed the set-up. It’s a little better but still……” he said.

In the WRC 2 category Yuriy Protasov’s troubled day continued when he retired his Subaru Impreza with broken suspension before the start. He had earlier lost time with a front left puncture and broken power steering.

click: ss10


Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
SS11: Advantage Ogier

Rally leader Sebastien Ogier ended Mads Ostberg’s run of stage wins on the repeat of El Chocolate, powering his Polo R through the 30km test an incredible 10.4 seconds quicker than anybody else.

Competing the stage before Ostberg, at the finish control the unflappable Frenchman acknowledged that the time was ‘okay’ but said the road cleaning effect could still benefit those drivers following.

In the event Ostberg was third fastest, 11.2 seconds adrift. “I tried to push Ogier and on some sections we were equal or we gained a bit, but in other places it’s like I’m not even driving - we were one second per kilometre down and I have no idea why," he said.

“There is something missing and I think it must be related to the grip changes. Compared to the ones before, this stage is like tarmac. It’s a bit like Monte Carlo. And I don’t like Monte Carlo.”

Mikko Hirvonen was second fastest in his Citroen DS3 to consolidate third overall. “The stage was okay but Ogier is going really quickly and it’s difficult to match his times,” he said. “That’s really the only problem because otherwise the car feels good, the set-up is okay and I’m feeling good about my driving.”

Fiesta RS pilot Thierry Neuville was fifth fastest but felt lucky to have got through at all.

“Not a good stage, it was so rough and I was extremely careful in some places,” he said. “Then I made a little mistake on the exit of a corner, I hit a post and had to reverse to get going again. It cost me a couple of seconds but I lost my confidence a bit thinking that I didn’t want to retire here. But okay, we dropped a bit of time but at least we are here.”

Hirvonen’s Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo remained in the WRC doldrums. The Spaniard completed the stage 52.8sec slower than Ogier. “I’m not happy but its like that. I just don’t know why. The car is moving a lot, it’s impossible to drive,” he said.

Michal Kosciuszko arrived at the stage end with the left-hand rear wheel of his Mini knocked out of alignment. “I have no idea how that happened,” he said. “I didn’t go off the road. It shouldn’t be like that.”

click: ss11


End of Friday SS12 & SS13



Friday WRC wrap:

Sebastien Ogier completed the second day of Rally Mexico with a 33.0sec lead in his Volkswagen Polo R. The Frenchman won seven of the 11 stages on the car's gravel debut to ease clear of Mads Ostberg's Ford Fiesta RS.

Ogier held a narrow advantage after last night sprint stages and built on that in today’s two longest tests. He won the morning passes of the 21.91km El Cubilete and the 30.57km El Chocolate and repeated the feat this afternoon.

“When you think about the road position we had, to lead tonight by more than 20 seconds…well, it’s been a good day,” said Ogier. “We didn’t expect this. It’s the first time on gravel but it looks like the car is also good here.”

Ostberg was the only driver to challenge Ogier. The Norwegian won two stages in both the morning and afternoon loops, despite never feeling at ease in the other tests.

“It’s been an up and down sort of day,” said Ostberg. “Difficult to explain, but Ogier has done something very special. We can only be happy with what we have done, but it’s disappointing to lose contact with him.”

Mikko Hirvonen and Thierry Neuville dueled over third place throughout the day, which covered 11 stages and 160.75km, mostly in the rolling mountains east of Leon.

Although the young Belgian reduced the deficit to Hirvonen to just four-tenths of a second, the experienced Finn pulled clear in the El Chocolate test to end 25.1sec ahead in his Citroen DS3.

“It’s been a mixed day,” said Hirvonen. “I don’t know myself why I wasn’t on the pace on all the stages. Some were good, but on others the speed wasn’t there.”

Neuville was happy to reflect on an impressive debut on gravel in the Fiesta RS. “It was a good day. I couldn’t feel the car in the last long stage because it was so rough. I don’t know the car’s limits and I didn’t want to damage it on the first day,” he said.

read more: wrap


Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #9

SS14: Ogier dominates but concern for Ostberg

Sebastien Ogier began Saturday’s leg of Rally Mexico in dominating fashion, setting a fastest time through the opening stage and extending his rally lead to more than 40 seconds.

The Polo R driver made the most of his start position of 13th on the road to complete the test 8.4sec quicker than his closest rival, Mads Ostberg.

“It’s a good time, but to be honest the feeling wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t easy to find a good rhythm,” Ogier reflected. “But when I saw the time I thought I shouldn’t try to push more. I don’t want to take any risks.”

Mads Ostberg was second fastest in his Ford Fiesta RS to extend his advantage over second-placed Mikko Hirvonen in the overall classification. But at the finish control there were signs that all was not well with the Norwegian’s car. “I have a problem,” said an anxious-looking Ostberg. “I have to go”.

The Qatar M-Sport team later confirmed that Ostberg’s car had a broken clutch slave cylinder.

“He’s got no clutch,” team principal Malcolm Wilson told “It will not affect him once he’s got going, but it will be difficult to get the car off the start line.

“It happened at the start of the stage and he completed the rest of it without any problems. He’ll probably lose more time on the short stage [SS16] because getting off the line on tarmac will be harder.”

Citroen DS3 driver Hirvonen was third fastest through SS14 and ready to capitalise on any problems with the cars ahead. “I had a good drive in there, the car feels really, really good,” he said. “Okay, the cars behind [in the start order] are very fast, but I’ll keep trying.”

Thierry Neuville’s challenge for a podium spot didn’t get off to a good start on Ibarrilla when the Belgian clipped a rock with his Fiesta RS. “It happened in a very tight hairpin,” Neuville explained. “It was on the front right-hand side and now I think the steering is bent a little. Apart from that it was a good run.”

Hirvonen’s Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo was eighth fastest and feeling more upbeat about his performance that he had on Friday – despite driving with a left-hand front puncture for the last 7km. “There were a lot of rocks in the road so it was very easy to puncture,” he said. “Before that it was okay and the car is a little bit better. We made some set-up changes last night.”

click: ss14


SS15: Ostberg retires

While Sebastien Ogier rattled off another win, the major talking points were the dramas that befell Mads Ostberg and Thierry Neuville.

Ostberg retired his Ford Fiesta RS from second place on the road section from the opening stage at Ibarrilla to Otates. The Norwegian lost time in Ibarrilla with a broken clutch slave cylinder, but it was an electrical problem that stopped him.

“He’s had an electrical problem on the road section which means he can’t continue,” said Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson. “It could be alternator or battery related but we won’t know for sure until we get the car back to service.”

Thierry Neuville lost almost a minute but, ironically, with the retirement of Ostberg, he climbed to third place in his Ford Fiesta RS. The time loss followed an incident in the opening stage when he hit a rock.

“In the first corner the steering broke in a very fast section and I had a half spin. I was very lucky. The steering was blocked, it wouldn’t turn, and I had to be very concentrated and very careful because in some places I could not do anything,” he explained.

Amid the dramas, Ogier won the stage by 15.6sec from Mikko Hirvonen, now second overall in his Citroen DS3. The Frenchman was surprised to be so far ahead of his rivals in the stage having eased his pace after the demise of his closest challenger.

“We took it easy and I think the others did as well because I was really, really not pushing. I took the speed of Mikko. I was faster and backed off but it was still faster. What can I do?” smiled the Volkswagen Polo R pilot.

Hirvonen, too, admitted he had lifted his right foot. “I tried to find a rhythm so that if Ogier has a problem, then I need to be ready. But it’s quite easy now,” he explained.

Jari-Matti Latvala was third fastest, the Finn running under Rally 2 regulations after retiring yesterday. He was 27.2sec behind Ogier.

Latvala started the stage 21 minutes late in a deliberate move to aid his learning of the Polo R. Having incurred a time penalty after retiring, he is focused on testing, and the Volkswagen Motorsport team dropped him from first to seventh in the start order to experience road conditions in tune with a position higher up the leaderboard.

Nasser Al-Attiyah was fourth fastest ahead of Dani Sordo, the Spaniard sounding totally deflated.

“I can’t drive the car. I don’t understand it. If I try to go faster then I will go out of the road. If I knew what the problem was, then I would change the car,” said Sordo.

click: ss15

Ostberg: ‘My biggest disappointment’

Mads Ostberg described his retirement from second place in Rally Mexico this morning as the biggest disappointment of his career.

The Norwegian stopped on the road section after the opening stage with a broken alternator on his Ford Fiesta RS. He claimed four stage wins yesterday and was the only driver capable of matching leader Sebastien Ogier.

“It’s the biggest disappointment I’ve ever had in rallying,” he said. “I’ve been disappointed previously but never this bad. It’s very frustrating after fighting for a good result.

“I can’t believe it’s the third rally in a row where we’ve had technical issues and I’m not happy with that. I hope this will change now,” he added.

Read More:


SS16 - Leon Street Stage


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1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
SS16 - Leon Street Stage / Midday wrap

After a clean run through the short Leon Street Stage, Sebastien Ogier returned to the city's service park with a commanding rally lead of more than one minute.

The Frenchman was fastest on both of the morning’s gravel tests, to more than double his overnight advantage and remain on track to take the Polo R’s maiden WRC victory on gravel tomorrow.

Ogier’s task was made a lot easier on the road section after SS14, when his closest rival, Ford Fiesta RS driver Mads Ostberg, retired with clutch and alternator related problems.

“Okay, It was a great morning for us but I feel a bit disappointed for Mads, he deserved better than that,” said Ogier. “This morning he did a really good job and it’s a shame for him. We were okay, and on the second one I really backed off but still we were fastest. Now we just want to get to the end, avoid all rocks and try to save the car as much as we can. We’ll be very safe.”

Ostberg’s exit promoted Citroen team-leader Mikko Hirvonen to second. But faced with a 1m08.4sec gap to Ogier, the Finn acknowledged there was little chance of catching him through driving alone.

“We started the day with Ostberg in our sights, and I tried to attack in the first stage but when we heard he was out that took the pressure off,” said Hirvonen.

“My pace was okay in the first stage but Ogier was amazingly fast. After we heard about Ostberg we haven’t pushed. Unfortunately now we are concentrating on just holding the place. It’s not so difficult. But of course anything can happen.”

Ford Fiesta RS driver Thierry Neuville began the day fourth but returned to service in third, despite struggling for much of the morning with broken steering. “It’s been a very stressful morning for us,” admitted the Belgian.

“We caught the inside of a wheel in a hairpin on the first stage and opened the steering. It got worse and something broke on the long stage that locked the steering and caused us to spin. After that we had to be neat, with no sliding all the way through.

“I’m very disappointed for Mads, he was doing a great job. But for me of course it’s good and I win one place. Now we need absolutely to finish. We can’t catch the guys ahead,” he added.

Despite more frustration with his own driving, Dani Sordo is fourth, 1m 38sec behind Neuville, while Nasser Al-Attiyah is 39sec further back in fifth.

“Not an easy morning but our times are really good,” said Al-Attiyah. “Still a long way to go and a difficult afternoon ahead I’m sure with lots of rocks.”

Ken Block is sixth in his Hoonigan racing division Fiesta RS, with Benito Guerra seventh in his privateer Citroen DS3.

Chris Atkinson holds eighth in his Citroen DS3 and hopes to make further progress up the leader board. But that won’t be easy from his start position of third on the road. “Okay, the road position is hurting us but the times are pretty good,” he said.

“It’s difficult to push too hard because that takes us off the swept line but we’re about 0.6 sec per kilometre off Mikko’s pace and he has a much better road position. We’re chipping away. Okay, it’s frustrating after our problems yesterday but we can still get some good points if we carry on like this.”


Ford Fiesta RRC driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari continues to dominate the WRC 2 category of Rally Mexico.

The Qatari won both of the morning’s gravel stages to return to Leon after SS7, 3m.22.4sec ahead of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo of local hero Nicolas Fuchs.

After battling with brake problems for much of the morning, Ricardo Trivino is third, 5m 48.5 behind his compatriot in another Group N Mitsubishi.

“Okay, It’s a good lead but it’s been very tough out there,” said Al-Kuwari. “For the whole loop I have a problem with the handbrake and no launch control. But it’s okay, now we are focused on getting to the end. We have to be cautious.”

Armin Kremer, who had been third overnight, retired after his Subaru Impreza succumbed to suspension damage on Saturday’s opening stage.

“There was no way he could continue,” team manager Manfred Stohl told “He hit nothing, there was no mistake from him. We'll fix the car now and he should be fine to restart tomorrow.”

“It’s his first time here and he was second in Group N and third in WRC 2 but the luck wasn't on our side, which is disappointing.”

click: ss16 / midday wrap


84 Posts
Bloody hell weasel555, your coverage of WRC is brilliant... i was just using my wrc app on my phone to stay up to date... this is far better . Kudos!

Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
thanks mate and your welcome:cool:


SS17: Ogier flies

Sebastien Ogier won his third stage out of four today when the Volkswagen Motorsport pilot was quickest on the second pass through Ibarrilla.

He was 8.0sec ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, extending his lead to 1min 21.4sec over Mikko Hirvonen.

“That was really good fun,” said the French Polo R driver. “The stage was beautiful and clean. There were no rocks and I just enjoyed the driving.”

Latvala continued to focus on testing, the ever self-critical Finn admitting: “The one area where I need to improve is my braking. Sometimes I brake far too late and sometimes far too early.”

Hirvonen claimed third, 13.0sec behind Ogier and the Citroen DS3 driver was honest about his ambitions. “I tried to be careful and keep my solid second place. Ogier has been so fast here that I haven’t been able to match his pace and he has such a big lead that I just want to hold position,” he said.

There was a scare for third-placed Thierry Neuville, who was quick to leave the finish line. “We have an issue with the engine temperature. I had to drop the boost,” said the Ford Fiesta RS pilot, who was eighth and almost 30sec behind Ogier.

Chris Atkinson delivered his best performance of the weekend to finish fourth and that was sufficient to promote him to seventh overall, ahead of Benito Guerra.

Nasser Al-Attiyah remains fifth on the leaderboard but the Qatari counted himself fortunate to escape a big moment. “The car tried to change direction in sixth gear. We were very lucky,” he said.

Michal Kosciuszko reached the finish with a light flashing on the dashboard of his Mini John Cooper Works advising of high water temperature. “There’s a strange noise as well – I hope it’s not the engine,” said the Pole.

click: ss17


SS18: Hirvonen puncture reignites podium fight

The scene is set for a thrilling battle for second on Rally Mexico after a puncture cost Mikko Hirvonen almost two minutes on the re-run of Otates.

The Citroen DS3 driver began the test with a 1m51sec advantage over Thierry Neuville behind in third, but by the stage end the gap had been slashed to just 7.2sec.

Hirvonen arrived at the finish with his car’s left-hand rear tyre shredded. “We punctured 25km before the finish. I’ve no idea why, we didn’t hit anything,” Hirvonen hurriedly explained before moving off to change the wheel.

Neuville went second quickest on the stage after curing his Fiesta’s earlier cooling system problem. “The fan was not connected, we discovered it soon after the end of the previous stage and fixed it. Now we are going well again.”

The Belgian completed the stage before the full extent of Hirvonen’s time loss was clear.

While the race for third heated up, the split times revealed that rally leader Sebastien Ogier was contending with problems of his own.

The Frenchman arrived at the finish with no damage to his Polo R and revealed that he had been forced to stop mid-stage to open a gate that somebody had closed across the road.

“Maybe somebody didn’t want me to win,” Ogier grinned. “We had to stop the car, get out and open it. Not perfect. Next time perhaps they should remove the gates.”

The incident cost Ogier about 30 seconds but because of Hirvonen’s problems his rally lead increased to 2m49.7sec.

Jari-Matti Latvala, returning as a Rally 2 competitor today, was the fastest man on the stage. Dani Sordo was third fastest, recording his most competitive gravel stage time of the rally so far.

“I’m not really happy but I’m happier than I was this morning,” said Sordo. “The feeling is better and I have better grip in the rear. Where we are now it’s difficult to do anything but okay I don’t take any risks, that would be stupid now.”

After reporting worrying noises on the previous test, Michal Kosciuszko’s Mini took a turn for the worse on Otates. “We have only front-wheel drive, I think something is wrong in the diff,” he said. “We lost a lot of time and almost stopped in one uphill section. It was very hard. I hope the mechanics will repair it before tomorrow.”

click: ss18


Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Super Special Stages ss19 & ss20




Saturday WRC wrap:

Sebastien Ogier delivered another masterclass at Rally Mexico today to close on his second consecutive WRC victory and a potential debut success for the Volkswagen Polo R on gravel.

The Frenchman returned to Leon tonight having extended his overnight lead from 33.0sec to 2min 52.4sec. Just three stages covering 80.41km tomorrow stand between him and the win.

His cause was helped when Mads Ostberg retired from second with a broken alternator on his Ford Fiesta RS. Then Mikko Hirvonen, who inherited second in his Citroen DS3, dropped two minutes with a puncture.

Ogier won five of the seven stages and his serene progress was only interrupted by a bizarre incident near the end of the final high-altitude test when he encountered a closed gate across the road.

Co-driver Julien Ingrassia leaped out to open it and the duo dropped 40sec. Organisers are investigating why the gate was shut.

Ogier was so relaxed that he could laugh at the incident at the stage finish. “Maybe somebody didn’t want me to win,” he joked. “There’s still one day to go and in the morning we have the longest stage of the rally so we must keep our concentration. I want to drive at a good rhythm and have fun.”

A leaking pipe in the clutch hindered Ostberg in the opening test. On the following road section he had to turn off his Ford Fiesta RS each time he stopped and restart it in gear. When the alternator failed, his battery quickly ran out of charge and he was stranded.

“It’s the biggest disappointment I’ve ever had in rallying,” he said. “I’ve been disappointed previously but never this bad. It’s very frustrating after fighting for a good result.” He is expected to restart tomorrow under Rally 2 regulations.

With a large time gap to Ogier and no challenge from behind, Hirvonen eased his pace to hold position. However, a puncture dropped him into the clutches of Thierry Neuville and the pair are separated by just 7.5sec.

“I’m lucky to be second,” he admitted. “I drove 23km with a rear left puncture so now we’ll have a fight tomorrow as well. The fight looked to be over when Ostberg went out but the gap is small and the first stage is 50km so anything can happen there. He will try, so I need to push as well.”

Neuville damaged the steering of his Fiesta RS in the opening stage and when it jammed in the next test he spun and lost almost a minute. Fears of overheating later were eased when the Belgian discovered the dashboard warnings were prompted by a disconnected fan.

“I’m disappointed for Mads because he was doing well on only his second time here but sometimes that happens in rallying and for us it was good. We won a place and we’re now on the podium so we should continue like this and try to finish there,” he said.

Dani Sordo is fourth, but the Spaniard remains perplexed by his lack of pace in the Citroen DS3.

Nasser Al-Attiyah and Ken Block round off the top six, the Qatari driver relieved to escape a huge sixth gear moment in his Fiesta RS. Chris Atkinson has his sights set on Block, the Australian only 26.7sec behind.

The top 10 is rounded off by Benito Guerra, Martin Prokop and Evgeny Novikov, the Russian driver back in the points after losing 12 minutes yesterday with ECU problems.


Ford Fiesta RRC driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari continues to dominate the WRC 2 support category. The Qatari won six of the seven stages to return to Leon 6min 11.8sec ahead of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo of local hero Nicolas Fuchs.

After battling with brake problems for much of the morning, Ricardo Trivino lies third in another Group N Mitsubishi with Yuriy Protasov completing the runners in fourth.

Armin Kremer retired from third this morning with a broken steering arm on his Subaru Impreza.

click: wrap


Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Ogier’s time reduced after gate incident

Sebastien Ogier's stage time though SS18 (Otates) has been reduced by 40 seconds after he was forced to stop to open a gate that blocked the road.

The clerk of the course examined GPS data and split times from Ogier’s Polo R before deciding on the amount of time to be credited.

The decision makes Ogier the fastest driver through Otates, and gives him an extended rally lead of 3min 29.7sec ahead of Sunday’s competition.



Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #16

SS21: Neuville challenge ends with lucky escape

As promised by his M-Sport team boss on Saturday night, Thierry Neuville had Mikko Hirvonen’s second place in his sights on Sunday's opening Guanajuatito test.

But after making a promising start, and matching Hirvonen’s opening pace, the Belgian’s challenge effectively ended 10km in, when his Fiesta RS slipped off the road and into a ditch.

His car unscathed, Neuville got back underway with the loss of around 15 seconds but the positions effectively settled. “It was a huge moment,” explained Neuville. “I braked too late for a tight corner, and went straight on into a ditch. I was very, very lucky to get back on.”

Following Neuville through the stage, Hirvonen set the fastest time, and by the finish had extended his advantage to a more comfortable 29.2sec. “I knew that he was pushing, but it was clear from the lines in the road that he had braked too late and gone off," said Hirvonen.

"When we heard the split time I knew I could take it easier. I must say I have huge respect for the way he drove today - and of course to the team for allowing him to fight.”

With little to gain and everything to lose, most of the drivers in the top ten adopted a cautious approach and tried to save their tyres for the Power Stage that followed.

Chris Atkinson, however, was still playing catch-up after his problems on Friday and his persistence was rewarded with another step up the classifications, moving ahead of Ken Block into sixth.

“Okay, its a bit disappointing to lose the place, but that’s a really enjoyable stage to drive,” said Block. “Perhaps I was to cautious in the first half, I was braking too early in places but I’m happy to have taken six seconds from Guerra.”

Rally leader Sebastien Ogier completed the stage cleanly in the second fastest time. “At the beginning I was avoiding every rock, no matter how small, but after the middle when it opened up and got a bit safer I pushed harder to get my rhythm back," he said. "It went okay, now I’ll see if I can take one or two points in the Power Stage.”

Michal Kosciuszko’s troubled rally came to an premature end when his Mini JCW stopped at the 42km mark.

click: ss21


SS22: Ogier wins Power Stage

If anyone thought rally leader Sebastien Ogier would throttle back and preserve his lead rather than chase Power Stage points, then they were mistaken. The Frenchman took maximum bonus points by winning the test by 5.9sec in his Volkswagen Polo R.

If that was a surprise, then so was the fact that Mads Ostberg and Jari-Matti Latvala were second and third, claiming two and one points respectively. Latvala started first on the road and Ostberg was just one car behind him, and both endured the worst of the conditions as they ploughed slippery loose gravel.

With the exception of Ogier, it seemed those higher up the leaderboard were unwilling to risk their overall positions in the pursuit of Power Stage points, despite the benefit of cleaner roads further down the start order.

A relaxed Ogier was asked if he was trying to win everything and joked: “Not everything – but as much as I can! I wasn’t flat out but the road was getting cleaner and cleaner. Mads did a good job to take second from second on the road.”

Ogier referred to a small problem with the throttle, the Frenchman checking it out before the stage start. understands it is related to the throttle sensor, but the Volkswagen Motorsport team in the Leon service park remained unconcerned.

Ostberg will be hugely surprised with second in his Ford Fiesta RS. “It was very difficult because there was a lot of gravel on the road and the drivers behind will have a cleaner line. They will have to go very slowly not to beat my time,” he said.

Latvala was a further 2.3sec behind in the other Polo R. “The feeling was good but it’s so slippery,” said the Finn. “We took two spare wheels this morning but maybe that wasn’t the right decision.”

Mikko Hirvonen was fourth in his Citroen DS3, despite completing the stage with a huge chunk of rubber missing from his rear left tyre. Fortunately for him the tyre remained inflated. Dani Sordo’s Citroen DS3 and Evgeny Novikov’s Fiesta RS rounded off the top six.

click: ss22


SS23 SuperSpecial

Sebastien Ogier has taken victory in Rally Mexico and secured a maiden win on gravel for Volkswagen's Polo R World Rally Car on only the manufacturer's third event.

Ogier, 29, held the lead of the Leon-based rally from Friday’s sixth stage, eventually winning by 3min 28.9sec from Citroen Total Abu Dhabi team driver Mikko Hirvonen at the wheel of a Citroen DS3.

Thierry Neuville was third, 54.9sec behind Hirvonen, in a Qatar World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS.

click: wins


Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
WRC wrap:

Sebastien Ogier claimed his second consecutive WRC victory today after dominating Rally Mexico in a Volkswagen Polo R.

The Frenchman led after Thursday’s opening sprint tests, and despite losing the lead briefly on Friday, he quickly regained his advantage and was never again troubled. He eventually took this third round of the 2013 season by 3min 28.9sec from Mikko Hirvonen’s Citroen DS3.

Thierry Neuville claimed his first WRC podium in a Ford Fiesta RS. The Belgian gave up his pursuit of Hirvonen after sliding into a ditch on this morning’s opening stage, and he finished 54.9sec behind the Finn.

Ogier won 16 of the 23 stages, covering almost 400km in the hills above Leon, and claimed maximum points from the weekend having also taken bonus points for winning the Power Stage earlier today.

His victory came on the Polo R’s gravel debut, and in its first season of competition the duo have finished second on Rallye Monte-Carlo’s asphalt, won in the snow and ice of Sweden and now laid down a marker on gravel.

“The start of the season is just amazing for us,” said Ogier. “We want to thank the team because the car was perfect again all weekend. Okay, just a small alarm this morning with a sensor but it was not a drama, and here we are again at the end with a perfect amount of points.

“Now we have quite a good lead for the championship after just three rallies. For sure the season will be long, but already it’s not bad,” added Ogier, who heads Sebastien Loeb in the drivers’ standings by 31 points.

Hirvonen climbed to second when Mads Ostberg, the only driver capable of matching Ogier’s times, was sidelined with a broken alternator on his Ford Fiesta RS yesterday. Hirvonen held off a charging Neuville to claim his best result of the season and climb to third in the points.

“Second place - back to normal!” joked the Finn. “Of course, I’m happy to get my first podium of this year but Sebastien was so fast and we couldn’t match his pace. Okay, we have lots of work to do but I’m happy we’ve finally got on the podium and taken a solid result.”

A buoyant Neuville celebrated with a champagne shower on the podium from his rivals.

“We did a job we can be proud of and learned a lot. This morning I tried to push but okay, it went wrong, but we are still here with no damage on the car. It’s been a long wait for a podium, last year many things went wrong. We showed everyone we can learn, we took another step, now we are ready to go forward again and win,” he said.

Dani Sordo finished fourth, despite frequently feeling uncomfortable in his Citroen DS3, the Spaniard more than six minutes behind Ogier. Nasser Al-Attiyah finished fifth on his debut in a Fiesta RS WRC and Chris Atkinson shrugged off a 3min 30sec time penalty after breaking his Citroen DS3’s steering to claim sixth.

Ken Block scored a career-best seventh place and the leaderboard was rounded off by Benito Guerra on his World Rally Car debut, Martin Prokop and Evgeny Novikov.

click: Wrap


WRC 2 wrap:

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari dominated the WRC 2 support category to bring his Ford Fiesta RRC home 9min 14.6sec clear of Mexico's Nicolas Fuchs.

The Qatari was the only driver present in a new-generation WRC 2 car and he won 21 of the 23 stages on his Rally Mexico debut.

It was also Al-Kuwari’s first appearance in a Fiesta RRC and he admitted the weekend had been easier than anticipated.

“I thought it would be very difficult here, but we started well and continued to do a good job,” he said. “There were no mistakes and no problems with the car. Killian (Duffy, co-driver) did a great job. Four hundred kilometres on the pace notes and no mistakes.”

Fuchs had no serious problems in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX and finished 8min 19.6sec ahead of the Evo X Lancer of Ricardo Trivino, who struggled with brake issues in the high temperatures.

Armin Kremer retired from third yesterday with a broken steering arm on his Subaru Impreza WRX. He restarted today under Rally 2 rules and came home fourth, despite stopping in the opening stage to check a vibration which turned out to be a stone wedged in the brake caliper.

Yuriy Protasov was sidelined on Friday with broken suspension on his Impreza WRX but he, too, restarted and completed the finishers despite a dramatic final day. He survived a big spin in the opening stage, but punctured both rear tyres and bent his front right suspension in the incident.

click: wrap


Next: Rnd 4 WRC Portugal 11-14 April

Rally de Portugal retains the broad format of 2012, with three days of competition in the Algarve and Baixo Alentejo regions. With the recce held on 9 and 10 April, the Qualifying Stage (April 11) returns to Vale do Judeu. Later that day, and for the first time since its return to the WRC, Rally de Portugal will feature a ceremonial start in the setting of the Vilamoura Marina, echoing the 2005 and 2006 rallies, which ran as candidate events ahead of the rally’s return to the WRC.

Portugal’s stages, which include a mixture of open roads and technical and narrow sections, are characterised by their abrasive surface. This puts the onus on tyre wear although the April date means this might not be as apparent as in 2010 when tyre wear rates were reported as being 40 per cent higher than on other gravel rallies.

Official Website:

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