Current champion Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena added a sixth Rally Mexico trophy to their cabinet as the duo once again dominated the rest of the field to take the win at the third WRC round of this season in their DS3 WRC. The win didn’t come without a fight though, as Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen mounted up an in-house challenge. Ford’s Petter Solberg (Fiesta WRC) inherited third place after team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala rolled his car and retired from the event.
“I am very happy. I always win here. It is a great result for the team as well, with Mikko finishing second, a one-two for us. The rally was very difficult, I had to push really hard to shake off Mikko. This season has started in very typical fashion: a win at Monte-Carlo, an average result in Sweden and a win in Mexico. Let’s hope the rest of the season also goes the same way as in previous years,” said Loeb.
After getting used to the specific attributes of the DS3, it seems Hirvonen is back on form by backing up his seconds place in Sweden with another in Mexico. “Seb was stronger. He beat me after a good fight, but I had my chances. These three days of racing have helped me to make progress, and little by little I am changing my driving style to adapt to the specific features of the DS3 WRC. It’s been a really good weekend, which augurs well for an interesting season,” said Hirvonen.
Norwegian Petter Solberg had initially started the weekend off well as leader from the start, but trouble soon thereafter meant he had to claw his way back up the order. Winning the power stage also meant extra points in the bag for his championship challenge.
“I really wanted to win the Power Stage because the bonus points are important for the championship. The extra three points means I scored the same as the second-placed driver, so it’s like finishing a place higher. I’ve now driven on three different surfaces in the Fiesta in the opening three rallies and I was really comfortable on each, so I feel confident for the season ahead, ”said Solberg.
Mads Ostberg took fourth for the Adapta World Rally Team in his Fiesta WRC, while Ott Tanak (M-Sport) rounded off the top five in another Fiesta. Latvala had a most unfortunate weekend, as he was actually trying to avoid a collision with M-Sport’s other driver, Evgeny Novikov, when he rolled his own Fiesta. “I approached a fast right bend which led into a left-right combination of corners. From a distance I saw Evgeny Novikov’s car on its roof and it appeared to be on the side of the road. I braked hard and the car slid into a bank and rolled back onto the track. I think I rolled twice. The impact punctured the front left tyre, which we changed, and then I drove slowly to the end,” Latvala explained.
The next round of the World Rally Championship takes place in Portugal – which pits the competitors against conditions not that far off those experienced in South America. Once again Citroën is dominant from the start, so it remains to be seen whether or not Ford can muster up a successful attempt to overthrow the French outfit’s dominance of WRC in recent years. New teams Mini and Volkswagen also have a lot of work in terms of consistency and points-earning finishes in the events that lie ahead if they’re to best the high level displayed by privateer teams early this season.
1. Sebastien Loeb (Citroën World Rally Team) – 66 points
2. Mikko Hirvonen (CitroënWorld Rally Team) – 50
3. Petter Solberg (Ford World Rally Team) – 47
4. Mads Ostberg (Adapta World Rally Team) – 28
5. Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford World Rally Team) – 26
6. Evgeny Novikov (M-Sport Ford Rally Team) – 21
7. Dani Sordo (Mini WRC Team) – 18
8. Ott Tanak (M-Sport Ford Rally Team) – 14
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar World Rally Team) – 8
10. Francois Delecour (M-Sport Ford Fiesta) – 8