Loeb clinches another Mexico victory

Sebastien Loeb took the fifth Rally Mexico win of his career in ultimately dominant fashion once his rally-long rival Sebastien Ogier crashed out on the final leg

Loeb clinches another Mexico victory

The event was dominated by the two works Citroens, with Ogier leading most of day one apart from a brief period when Loeb nosed ahead.

Loeb then took charge on Saturday as Ogier lost a little - though not much - time running first on the road. But it turned around again when Loeb picked up a 50-second penalty for being late into SS15 having had to fix a gearshift issue before the stage start.

This put Ogier back in front, although he could perhaps consider himself lucky to escape any penalty for accidentally driving into service before the rescheduled regroup on Friday lunchtime - an incident examined in two stewards' meeting.

Loeb was soon closing in once more, helped by Ogier suffering a temporary loss of power, and the champion emerged with a commanding lead when Ogier went off on Sunday's first stage and damaged his Citroen too badly to continue.

That left Loeb to cruise to the finish and get his 2011 title bid started with the 63rd win of his World Rally Championship career.

"That was a very hard weekend, a terrible fight with Ogier until today," said Loeb. "He was really, really pushing hard.

"I think we've done nearly a perfect weekend, some small troubles but not many for a new car. I'm satisfied with the performance - the DS3 is very fast."

Ford ended a tough event with a double podium for Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala. Hirvonen dropped back while running first on the road on Friday - and was very perturbed when he carried on losing time even when he had a better road position for leg two. But he retained the championship lead and also grabbed the bonus points for winning the rally-ending power stage. Latvala was delayed by two punctures.

The combination of rough stages, high altitudes and hot temperatures meant a high attrition rate for the still-new 2011 WRC machines. Petter Solberg recovered to fourth despite losing seven minutes with an electrical glitch on his Solberg Citroen on Friday, Stobart Ford's Mads Ostberg rebounded from a puncture to drive carefully to fifth and his team-mate Henning Solberg took sixth despite miscellaneous glitches.

The other two Stobart entries retired when well-placed: Matthew Wilson losing a possible career-best finish to electrical failure when fourth, and Evgeny Novikov's engine overheating due to radiator damage while fifth on his return to the championship.

Dennis Kuipers rolled the Ferm Ford out of seventh on leg two, and Ken Block managed to retire the Monster Ford no fewer than three times, thanks to two electrical failures, and a minor accident. Remarkably he was still on course for 10th until yet another electrical glitch on the penultimate stage dropped him to 13th.

The attrition rate was such that Federico Villagra came back to take a point in the Munchi's Ford despite picking up a day's worth of superally penalties when he took a wheel off the car on Friday's first stage, struggling with brake problems on his return and then breaking a driveshaft on the final stage.

Kimi Raikkonen was not present this time - Mexico being one of the events he is skipping in his reduced 2011 programme.

Nasser Al-Attiyah hung on to take S2000 class victory in seventh overall ahead of the fast-closing Martin Prokop. Ott Tanak had been Al-Attiyah's main rival until crashing on Saturday, while Juho Hanninen never regained the ground lost when he spun and broke reverse gear on Friday's opener. He escaped a penultimate-stage roll to finish third in class, ninth overall.

Leading finishers:

Pos  Driver              Team/Car             Time/Gap
 1.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen            3h53m17.0s
 2.  Mikko Hirvonen      Ford                + 1m38.4s
 3.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford                + 2m23.9s
 4.  Petter Solberg      Solberg Citroen     + 7m18.4s
 5.  Mads Ostberg        Stobart Ford        + 8m43.5s
 6.  Henning Solberg     Stobart Ford        + 9m50.0s
 7.  Nasser Al-Attiyah   Barwa Ford         + 13m21.5s
 8.  Martin Prokop       Czech Ford         + 13m35.0s
 9.  Juho Hanninen       Red Bull Skoda     + 14m48.7s
10.  Federico Villagra   Munchi's Ford      + 48m17.2s

Other WRC finishers:

13.  Ken Block           Monster Ford     + 1h04m04.7s

WRC retirements:

     Sebastien Ogier     Citroen          SS20
     Evgeny Novikov      Stobart Ford     SS13
     Dennis Kuipers      Ferm Ford        SS11
     Matthew Wilson      Stobart Ford     Before SS11

Leading Power Stage results:

Pos  Driver              Team/Car         Time/Gap
 1.  Mikko Hirvonen      Ford              4m40.4s
 2.  Petter Solberg      Solberg Citroen    + 2.1s
 3.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen            + 2.1s
 4.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford               + 2.5s
 5.  Mads Ostberg        Stobart Ford       + 7.9s
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Ogier leads into Mexican finale
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