Ogier breaks Mexico win record to take WRC points lead

Sebastien Ogier

Sebastien Ogier charged to a record-breaking seventh Rally Mexico victory and the top of the world championship standings by three points.

The 39-year-old, who’s down for a half-season only with the factory Toyota team after going part-time at the end of his eighth title-winning campaign in 2021, moved clear on Saturday’s first stage when Friday pacesetter Esapekka Lappi crashed out.

Never under threat thereafter, the sublime Ogier, with Vincent Landais co-driving, could have been forgiven for taking things easy on Mexico’s punishing rock-lined roads during Sunday’s final leg. But he left his best until last with maximum points on the Power Stage to take the title lead and make it two wins from two starts in 2023.

“The car was great this weekend, it was a faultless weekend from us and the team too,” Ogier told WRC All Live. “As I’m doing the next [rally in Croatia] it’s better to start first on the road on Tarmac, so it was important to score points [on the Power Stage] and for the team as well.”

With Ogier out in front to the tune of 35.8s starting the first of Sunday’s four stages, the focus was firmly on the battle for second place between Elfyn Evans, Ogier’s Toyota team-mate, and Thierry Neuville.

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Evans began Sunday’s action 4.3s ahead of Neuville but the prospect of a place swap increased when Neuville edged Evans on the heavily rutted Las Dunas superspecial by 0.2s. But on the subsequent 35.63 kilometres of Otates, the rally’s longest stage, Evans was 1.7s faster than his Hyundai-driving rival, who reported slowing to avoid a couple of dogs on the road during the run.

That meant the gap between the pair was 5.8s with two stages remaining. But before the penultimate 12.61-kilometre San Diego test, Evans had to turn mechanic to attempt a fix on a bent suspension arm picked up during SS20.

It became worse for Evans on a left-hander within sight of the start of SS22 when he ran wide and swiped a bank with the right rear of his Yaris. But he gave everything to minimise any further time loss and made it through 2.7s in front of Neuville – who’d survived a big slide on a right-hander nearing the stage finish – with just the Power Stage remaining.

By outpacing Evans on the 9.59-kilometre El Brinco test, though, Neuville took second overall behind Ogier by a mere 0.4s with the third fastest time, while a dejected Evans could do no better than sixth on rally’s finale.

“It’s not a surprise, we’ve been nursing a bent suspension arm since the first one this morning,” Evans told WRC All Live. “We had to take it easy just to make sure we got back, it’s a shame.”

World champion Kalle Rovanpera finished fourth with a damaged Toyota after he slid wide on a Power Stage right-hander.

Hyundai’s Dani Sordo, back in action after missing Rally Sweden, was fifth as WRC2 winner Gus Greensmith completed the top six on his first outing in a Toksport-run Skoda Fabia RS Rally2.

Emil Lindholm took the WRC2 runner-up spot in seventh with Oliver Solberg next up despite his Fabia dropping to three cylinders on the penultimate stage following a heavy hit through a compression.

Ott Tanak was second on the Power Stage on his way to a disconsolate ninth place following his turbo failure on Friday morning’s first test.

Three-time European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz completed the top 10 on his second Rally Mexico start.

A broken alternator belt cost Adrien Fourmaux seventh place and the runner-up spot in WRC2 although stage-side repairs by the Frenchman and co-driver Alexandre Coria restored their Ford Fiesta to full working order, but not before almost 19 minutes were lost.

Having failed to make it through Friday and Saturday, Pierre-Louis Loubet spun on Sunday’s opener before he completed SS21 with a flat front-left tyre. His M-Sport team-mates also had issues, with Tanak reporting a front damper issue and Jourdan Serderidis smashing into a rock on SS20.

The World Rally Championship heads back to Europe for the Croatia Rally from April 20-23, the third time the all-asphalt event, based in the capital Zagreb, has formed part of the WRC schedule.

The 2023 Rally Mexico podium

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