FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP (WRC) 2015: OGIER SHOWS HIS CLASS TO PULL CLEAR OF RIVALS AFTER SECOND DAY OF RALLY MEXICO
WRC A FULL 2015
OGIER SHOWS HIS CLASS TO PULL CLEAR OF RIVALS AFTER SECOND DAY OF RALLY MEXICO.
· Mads Østberg and Andreas Mikkelsen embroiled in fight for second place
· Qatar’s Al-Attiyah inherits massive WRC2 lead when Protasov hits trouble
· Latvala’s podium chance wrecked in SS12; Ott Tanak fails to restart
7 March 2015
LEÓN (Mexico): There was no stopping Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia on the second day of the 12th Rally Guanajuato Corona and the Volkswagen Polo R WRC crew extended their outright lead to a commanding 1min 15.2sec after 18 special stages on Friday afternoon.
The Frenchman began the day with a lead of 13.5 seconds, but he attacked from the outset. Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala blotted his copybook on the first run through Otates, tore a rear wheel off his Volkswagen Polo R WRC and wrecked his chance of pushing Ogier for the outright lead. From then on, it was plain sailing for the World Champion and he is now just three stages away from a hat-trick of Mexican victories.
“I am so happy with the way everything is going,” said Ogier. “There is no need to push. I just need to manage the car, take no risks and stay out of trouble. There is one long stage to go, but I have a gap and can afford to drive safely.”
The battle for second place developed into an all-Norwegian affair between Mads Østberg and Andreas Mikkelsen. The Citroën DS3 WRC driver managed to stave off the Volkswagen challenge and heads into the final day with a lead of 4.5 seconds.
Welshman Elfyn Evans appears to have the perfect strategy for success in Mexico. Fourth overall last year after a sensible and trouble free drive, the M-Sport World Rally Team driver remains on course for a repeat performance in the lead Ford Fiesta RS.
A puncture cost Spaniard Dani Sordo the opportunity to pressurise Evans, but Sordo leads the way for a blunted Hyundai Shell World Rally Team challenge in fifth overall. Czech driver Martin Prokop holds sixth place for the Jipocar Czech National Team.
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah moved into a massive WRC2 lead through the second Otates stage when Ukrainian Yuriy Protasov hit trouble. The defending champion will take an advantage of 7min 50.6sec over Peru’s Nicolas Fuchs into the closing three timed tests on Sunday after the Peruvian incurred an additional 30-second penalty for changing a flat tyre between stages and arriving late at the control.
“I feel for Yuriy,” said Al-Attiyah. “But, this afternoon, we had been applying the pressure. Now we need to be clever for the last few stages.”
Finland’s Jari Ketomaa dropped behind Fuchs with a broken drive shaft and Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari rounded off the top four, although the quartet of WRC2 drivers are all inside the overall top 10.
Saturday – as it happened
Twenty-eight of the 30 cars started day two and the M-Sport World Rally Team’s reward for extracting Ott Tanak’s Ford Fiesta from its watery grave was a position running first on the road for Saturday’s eight special stages. The gearbox, fuel tank, turbo, cooling package, boost control valves, electric components, brakes, front and rear suspension and cosmetic parts were all changed by a core team of eight mechanics in a frantic three-hour period where the engine block was also drained.
Overnight leader Ogier benefited from a starting position of eight behind the seven World Rally Cars that rejoined the action through Rally2 after retiring on Friday. He headed into the 30.27km of Ibarrilla with a lead of 13.5 seconds over Latvala. A back injury sustained after a heavy landing forced Russian WRC2 driver Radik Shaymiev to join Mexican Guillerne Sanchez on the list of retirements.
Tanak stopped shortly after leaving the service park late, but the crew managed to get going again before stopping for good at the refuelling point. Hayden Paddon was duly promoted to first on the road, but Ogier and Latvala were the class of the field and Ogier pipped Latvala by two-tenths of a second after the Finn clipped a rock near the stage finish and suffered a damper issue.
Protasov extended his WRC2 advantage over Al-Attiyah to 19 seconds and Jari Ketomaa benefited from Nicolas Fuchs’s delay changing a puncture and climbed to third.
The 42.90km of Otates was next on the agenda and it brought about the downfall of Lorenzo Bertelli and wrecked Latvala’s Mexican dream. Road sweeper Hayden Paddon complained of a treacherously slippery surface to clean, but the stage belonged to Ogier and the Frenchman’s overall lead grew to 50.5 seconds after Latvala badly damaged the Volkswagen and the wheels literally fell off his challenge.
The Finn lost over four and a half minutes and slipped to seventh behind Østberg, Mikkelsen, Evans, Sordo and Prokop before retiring at the end of the stage. “We broke the rear suspension and lost the rear wheel,“ said a shocked Latvala. “It was a fast right-hander and we touched the bank.”
Al-Attiyah reduced Protasov’s WRC2 lead to 16.1 seconds heading to the first of three passes through the El Brinco stage.
“So far we have done the perfect rally,” said Ogier, who set the second fastest time in El Brinco behind Dani Sordo to extend his lead over Østberg to 1min 08.2sec. The Norwegian complained of a problem with his right, front wheel and dropped 17.7 seconds. “I knew it was very unlikely that I could win unless my rivals had a bad weekend. Putting pressure on them was part of my plan,” added Ogier.
Protasov headed to the short León street stage with a WRC2 lead of 35.3 seconds after Al-Attiyah spun and landed in an El Brinco ditch. “I carried a lot of speed into a tight corner and we had a spin,” admitted the Qatari, who dropped a further two seconds on SS14.
Robert Kubica recorded the quickest time on the street stage, but Ogier reached service with a comfortable overall lead of 1min 08.3sec. A fastest time on the re-run of Ibarrilla gave the Frenchman a cushion of 1min 13.9sec, but an inspired Mikkelsen closed the gap on second-placed Østberg to 4.9 seconds.
Sordo clouted a rock in the track, lost around 18 seconds and puncture a front tyre and Al-Attiyah managed to pip Protasov and reduce the Ukrainian’s WRC2 lead to 31.4 seconds.
Kubica lost over two minutes with a puncture in SS16, but the second pass through Otates 2 belonged to Østberg and the fastest time enabled the Norwegian to edge six seconds clear Mikkelsen.
The treacherous gravel trails spelt disaster for Protasov. The Ford Fiesta RRC driver stopped on two occasions with reported overheating issues and his woes handed a massive 7min 13.8sec advantage in WRC2 to the defending champion, Al-Attiyah. Fuchs overhauled Ketomaa when the latter sustained a broken drive shaft.
Ogier was fastest through the penultimate stage of the day and the Frenchman headed back to León with a lead of 1min 14.6sec. The second fastest time enabled Mikkelsen to reduce Østberg’s hold on second place to 5.7 seconds. Al-Attiyah topped the WRC2 times and his lead grew to 7min 16.7sec.
Mikkelsen was on the ragged edge to set quickest in the final super special stage at the Autodrómo in León. His performance closed the gap on Østberg to 4.5 seconds in the frantic fight for second overall behind Ogier.
Three special stages are planned for Sunday, before the official ceremonial finish in León. The action gets underway with the daunting 55.82km of the Guanajuatito stage from 09.53hrs and that precedes the 11.59km of Derramadero at 11.16hrs. The competitive action draws to a close with the third run through the television El Brinco Power Stage at noon.
Rally Guanajuato Corona 2015 – positions after SS18
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 3hr 33min 27.4sec
2. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Jonas Andersson (SWE) Citroën DS3 WRC 3hr 34min 42.6sec
3. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ole Floene (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 3hr 34min 47.1sec
4. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Daniel Barritt (GBR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3hr 35min 56.0sec
5. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai i20 WRC 3hr 37min 38.0sec
6. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tománek (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3hr 38min 07.0sec
7. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta RRC 3hr 44min 11.3sec
8. Nicolas Fuchs (PER)/Fernando Musano (ARG) Ford Fiesta R5 3hr 52min 01.9sec
9. Jari Ketomaa (FIN)/Kaj Lindström (FIN) Ford Fiesta R5 3hr 53min 06.9sec
10. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Marshall Clarke (GBR) Ford Fiesta RRC 3hr 53min 16.5sec
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