March 8th-10th saw the WRC arrive in the sunny clime of Mexico for Round 3 of the championship. Round 2 in Sweden saw Ott Tanak take victory for Toyota with Thierry Neuville finishing second for Hyundai and Sebatien Ogier finish in 3rd, the championship following the result of Rally Sweden saw Ogier still in command of the championship standings with xx points.
Day 1 of the demanding Rally Mexico initially saw Andreas Mikkelsen set the initial pace, leading the event with teammate Dani Sordo in second. The strong run from both Hyundai’s was cut short as Mikkelsen stopped during one of the stages had no choice but to retire on the roadside, Sordo followed shortly after I sympathy as his Hyundai suffered terminal electrical system failure, forcing a second retirement for Hyundai.
Teemu Sunninen in his Ford Fiesta showed good pace, but came to grief during the infamous El Chocolate stage. Sunninen’s Ford left the stage and the result was significant damage to the front and rear corners of the M Sport run car. Jari Matti-latvala’s Toyota ground to a halt on the eventful opening day with alternator failure, a bitter blow for the experienced Finn.
Despite a puncture and unfavourable road position, the day closed with Ogier leading by 14.8 seconds from Elfyn Evans in second, followed closely by Kris Meeke’s Toyota. Ott Tanak in the sister Toyota and Esapekka Lappi in his Citroen rounded out the top 5, Marco Bulacia holding dominion over the WRC2 class in the evergreen Skoda Fabia.
Day 2 began in earnest on Saturday. Ogier continued on similar form to Day 1, though a minor slip up during the Leon super special stage saw him unceremoniously slide into the barriers, luckily there was no damage to the red bull liveried Citroen C3. 3rd placed Kris Meeke’s day took a real turn as lady luck turned her back on Meeke. A puncture in the morning cost time, but the resulting damage to the Toyota’s suspension upright cost Meeke dearly and allowed a recovering Ott Tanak & Thierry Neuville to overtake.
Meeke’s day would take a further blow as he slid wide in the re-run of the Leon super special stage, the result was the Toyota becoming stuck in second gear, costing Meeke 45 seconds. This dropped Meeke into 5th position. At the close of Day 2, Ogier still led, with Elfyn Evans in second, Ott Tanak in third and with the top 5 being rounded out by Thierry Neuville and Kris Meeke. WRC2 saw Benito Guerra take pride of place as the leader, overhauling Bulacia following a string of quick stage times.
Day 3, last chance saloon for Evans or Tanak to overhaul the so far dominant Ogier. Straight off the bat it was clear Tanak was a man on a mission. Tanak’s pace and zeal saw him continue to close down Evans on day 3, the Estonians pace bore fruit as he overhauled Evans before the final stage; His advantage aided by Evans accruing a 10 second penalty after arriving late for stage check-in, eliminating any chance of Evans re-taking second place. Jari-Matti Latvala’s Toyota started the final power stage looking like an extra from Mad Max. The Toyota bereft of its front bumper and with a damaged radiator held together by glue, the result of damage picked up on the previous stage.
At the end of play, Sebastien Ogier took his second victory of the year, followed by Ott Tanak in second, Elfyn Evans in third, Thierry Neuville in fourth and Kris Meeke completing the top 5. Benito Guerra claimed victory in WRC2 on home soil. Ogier also claimed 5 bonus points following the quickest run through the powerstage.
The championship sees Ott Tanak continue to lead following Rally Mexico. Sebastien Ogier climbs up into second place in the title hunt, pushing Thierry Neuville down into third following his clean sweep of Rally Mexico & the 5 bonus points for power stage victory.
28th of March to the 31st of March sees the WRC return to Europe for a vastly different challenge, the legendary Tour De Corse. The hills of Corsica will be alive to the sound of horsepower, the rally of 10 thousand corners will see the WRC cars running in full tarmac spec for the first time in 2019, we eagerly expect another close battle for victory here at Racing 24-7.