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Stage report
WRC Rally Mexico

WRC Mexico: Ogier delivers masterclass, Neuville snatches second

World Rally Championship legend Sebastien Ogier produced yet another Rally Mexico masterclass to claim a record seventh victory at the gruelling gravel event.

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

The Toyota driver, contesting a partial WRC season, once again outlined his skills to score his second victory of the campaign, following his record ninth Rally Monte Carlo triumph in January.

The eight-time world champion and co-driver Vincent Landais took the victory with a margin of 27.5 seconds from Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, who snatched second from Toyota’s Elfyn Evans on the final powerstage.

Ogier made the most of his advantageous road position on Friday to emerge locked in a fight for the lead with Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi. Five stage wins to Ogier’s two helped Lappi into a 5.3s lead over the Frenchman heading into Saturday.

However, drama struck Lappi in stage 11, the first of Saturday’s tests. The Finn misjudged a left hander and speared into an embankment that fired the i20 N across the road, before rear-ending a telegraph pole.

While Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferme emerged unscathed, the incident put the pair out of the rally, handing Ogier a sizeable lead.

Once ahead, Ogier utilised all of his experience to increase the advantage to a whopping 35.8s, helped by a stunning win on stage 16.

From there, Ogier adopted a no risk approach to Sunday’s four stages, including the mammoth 35.63km Otates test.

Ogier claimed the victory in style by winning the powerstage. The triumph moved Ogier to the top of the championship standings, having only participated in two of the three 2023 events.

The record seventh Mexico win pulled Ogier one clear of long-time rival and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb at the event, which returned to the WRC for the first time since 2020.

While Ogier was afford the luxury of being able to take a measured approach to Sunday, the same couldn’t be said for Evans and Neuville. Lappi’s demise thrusted the pair into second and third positions, with only 11.6s separating the duo.

Neuville’s run to third had included the challenge of losing his hybrid unit after hitting a bump in Friday’s stage. The Belgian also suffered a blocked damper and a front driveshaft issue before a puncture struck on stage 18.

However a string of four stage wins across Saturday reduced the gap to Evans to 4.3s heading into the final four stages.

Evans managed to stem the flow of time loss but a bent suspension arm brought Neuville back into the fight, only 2.7s adrift heading into the final stage. In the end, Neuville triumphed, pipping Evans by 0.4s on the powerstage to snatch second overall.

World champion Kalle Rovanpera finished a lonely fourth, 1m55.3s adrift. The Finn was hampered by starting second on the road on Friday which compromised his tyre selection on Saturday.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Unable to take the fight to the leaders, Rovanpera lost some time to a spin on Saturday but his fourth position was safe.

Rovanpera added two points after finishing fourth on the powerstage following a messy run that resulted in damage to his GR Yaris’ rear wing after a brush with a tree.

Hyundai’s Dani Sordo came home in fifth 2m58.8s adrift. The Spaniard had run as high as third before losing more than a minute to a puncture on stage 8.

Former M-Sport WRC driver Gus Greensmith finished sixth overall to win the WRC2 class in his first outing with Toksport Skoda. The Briton took the win from reigning WRC2 champion Emil Lindholm, who was seventh overall.

Oliver Solberg nursed a wounded Skoda that was down to three cylinders to claim third in class and eighth overall, taking the WRC2 championship lead in the process.

Rally Sweden winner Ott Tanak managed to recover to ninth after a turbo failure on stage 3 cost the 2019 world champion 12 minutes on Friday.

The Estonian had started the day with an early rally lead after dominating Thursday’s pair of superspecial stages. He added four extra points after finishing second on the powerstage.

M-Sport team-mates Pierre-Louis Loubet and Jourdan Serderdis also exited the rally in stage 3 in separate incidents, although the pair were able to rejoin the rally on Saturday. Loubet retired again on Saturday before reaching the finish.

Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta crashed out of the rally in stage 5 but was able to re-join under restart rules.

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