Meeke closes on Rally Mexico win

2017-03-12 15:06:30

Kris Meeke has extended his advantage on Rally Mexico to an impressive 30.9 seconds and the Briton has just two stages standing between himself and a maiden victory for the new Citroen C3 WRC.

A spin by second-placed Sebastien Ogier aided Meeke's cause, while third position is still held by Thierry Neuville, the Belgian admitting he simply didn't have the pace to match his rivals unless they hit problems.

Saturday was the longest day of the event and took in two loops of three stages, before a trio of superspecial stages rounded off the action closer to Leon. Meeke started the day just over 20 seconds ahead of Ogier and narrowly extended his lead after a trouble-free run this morning. This afternoon it was all about tire choices and Meeke was able to capitalize over what he described as a decisive second loop, benefiting again when Ogier spun in a slow hairpin and lost 10 seconds.

Ogier picked up cosmetic damage in the morning, running wide and hitting the undergrowth and, apart from his spin, had a clean run through the repeated stages, winning one of them and then also the final short stage. Behind the top two, Neuville is 39.6 seconds adrift of Ogier. The Belgian struggled on soft tires this afternoon when forecasted rain never arrived, but a clean and smooth drive reaped rewards and he sits comfortably in third position.

Ott Tanak lacked confidence this morning, not entirely comfortable with the setup of his Ford Fiesta, but the Estonian moved ahead of Juho Hanninen, the Finn fighting illness. He ran well this afternoon with one fastest time and now holds a lonely fourth overall.

Hayden Paddon fought for grip earlier in the day and clouted a rock, picking up a puncture in the process. He is fifth. Hanninen has stoically pressed on and Jari-Matti Latvala – who lost time yesterday with brake and overheating problems – is now using the event to try different settings and test tire wear. He nevertheless passed his Toyota teammate to take sixth overnight with Hanninen just three-tenths of a second behind.

Dani Sordo is now eighth. After being penalized Friday night for limping through the closing two superspecial stages, the decision was overturned today and the Spaniard regained just over two minutes to move up the leaderboard from 12th. He also set two fastest times. Elfyn Evans also gained positions and from 13th Friday night is now ninth. He took two stage wins in the short Autodromo stages this evening.

Pontus Tidemand and Eric Camilli have been battling throughout the day, trading fastest times and the lead of the FIA WRC 2 Championship category. Tidemand led into the day but was overhauled within two stages by a charging Camilli, who managed to maintain the advantage until the penultimate super special stage where the Swede inched ahead by sixth-tenths of a second. Tidemand maintained his advantage through the final stage but is just two seconds ahead, setting up a great closing fight for the win.

Stephane Lefebvre, running sixth earlier in the day, slid off the road and couldn't re-join and Lorenzo Bertelli rolled his Fiesta. The Italian was able to continue with cosmetic damage but has dropped down the leaderboard.

Provisional results after Section 5

1.   Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle

Citroen C3 WRC

2hr 47min 33.3sec

2.   Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia

Ford Fiesta WRC

2hr 48min 04.2sec

3.   Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

2hr 48min 43.8sec

4.   Ott Tanak / Martin Jarveoja

Ford Fiesta WRC

2hr 49min 45.9sec

5.   Hayden Paddon / John Kennard

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

2hr 50min 58.8sec

6.   Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila

Toyota Yaris WRC

2hr 52min 05.9sec

7.   Juho Hanninen / Kaj Lindstrom

Toyota Yaris WRC

2hr 52min 06.2sec

8.   Dani Sordo / Marc Martí

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

2hr 52min 49.4sec

9.   Eflyn Evans / Daniel Barritt

Ford Fiesta WRC

2hr 55min 55.4sec

10. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson

Škoda Fabia R5

2hr 56min 59.7sec

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