Meeke leads Rally Mexico for Citroen

2017-03-11 18:56:09

The first gravel round of the 2017 World Rally Championship got off to a delayed start on Friday afternoon, after morning stages were canceled due to transport issues. When it did get underway, Kris Meeke quickly took control in his Citroen C3 WRC this afternoon to take the lead of Rally Mexico, the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Northern Irish driver won the day's opener and heads the field after five stages in the mountains high above Guanajuato today.

"No dramas," Meeke said. "I had a very clean road but in places near the start it was loose. Towards the end we benefited with what we had. I was clean everywhere and there were some boulders to drive around, but I'm happy."

Reigning FIA World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier is 20.9 seconds adrift with Thierry Neuville moving into third as teammates Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo hit last minute problems.

After yesterday's opening super special stages in Mexico City, and the subsequent cancellation of today's first two stages, the rally resumed this afternoon and opened with the longest stage of the event, the 54.9 kilometer El Chocolate where virtually all the crews experienced issues with overheating. One run through the second mountain stage then preceded three short spectator stages before the overnight halt back in León.

Meeke, joint second last night, powered into the lead after the first stage but then dropped time in the second, when he stalled twice. The C3 WRC was however the only car not to experience overheating problems and the Northern Irish driver went on to win one of the superspecial stages to take the advantage heading into the longest day of competition tomorrow.

Ogier opted for a safe tire choice today and while he had an overheating engine in the first stage, the Frenchman powered on without problems and will be hoping the team can help manage the temperatures for the remainder of the event.

Paddon led the Hyundai challenge until the first of three spectator stages, but the Kiwi driver lost nearly 90 seconds in the short 1.09km Guanajuato street stage with an undisclosed problem. He dropped to seventh with his third position taken by teammate Dani Sordo. All three Hyundai i20s then picked up misfires on the closing two stages, but Neuville fared the best, moving into third while Paddon retained seventh and Sordo dropped further down the order.

Juho Hanninen is currently the lead Toyota driver in fourth, the Finn having led overnight after the two super special stages in Mexico City. He had to manage temperatures too and heads teammate Jari-Matti Latvala, who fared the worst in the first stage when he lost the brakes and had to run in road mode because of overheating in the Yaris WRC. He lost over 90 seconds in the first stage alone and now sits in eighth.

"The engine is running far too hot – we had to run in road mode," Toyota's championship leader and road opener Latvala said. "The center differential is too hot too and we had no proper brakes for half the stage. It will be a hard rally," he said.

Ott Tanak ran in road mode for some of the first stage, suffering the same as his rivals, and the Estonian is fifth over a minute and a half adrift after a tricky day. Stephane Lefebvre is sixth; like teammate Meeke he escaped engine problems but instead suffered an issue with the power steering in his first outing in Mexico in a World Rally Car.

Pontus Tidemand overhauled Eric Camilli for the lead in the FIA WRC 2 Championship and the Skoda driver tops the category standings by 35.4 seconds and is also ninth overall. Third in WRC 2 is local hero Benito Guerra who broke a wheel in the Guanajuato street stage this evening.

Provisional results after Section 3

1.   Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle

Citroen C3 WRC

1hr 01min 33.8sec

2.   Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia

Ford Fiesta WRC

1hr 01min 54.7sec

3.   Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

1hr 02 min 30.5sec

4.   Juho Hanninen / Kaj Lindström

Toyota Yaris WRC

1hr 03min 01.1sec

5.   Ott Tanak / Martin Jarveoja

Ford Fiesta WRC

1hr 03min 06.7sec

6.   Stephane Lefebvre / Gabin Moreau

Citroen C3 WRC

1hr 03min 26.6sec

7.   Hayden Paddon / John Kennard

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

1hr 03min 35.9sec

8.   Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila

Toyota Yaris WRC

1hr 04min 04.6sec

9.   Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson

Škoda Fabia R5

1hr 04min 58.1sec

10. Eric Camilli / Benjamin Veillas

Ford Fiesta R5

1hr 05min 33.5sec

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