THE CITROËN CREWS ON THE PACE!
Contested in warm, sunny conditions, the Rally Mexico shakedown saw Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle top the timesheets in the traditional pre-event dress rehearsal as they found the same good feeling as at last year's event. Only 2.6s behind their team-mates on their return to the WRC, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena confirmed that they were getting to grips with the C3 WRC quickly.
Despite being narrower and more technically demanding than most of the stages, today's 5.31 kilometre shakedown – held in Llano Grande – provided the crews with the opportunity to reacclimatise themselves with the various difficulties that they can expect to face this weekend.
With the stage held at close to 2,200 metres above sea level, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT took advantage of the session to conduct a final review of several engine mappings, whilst also confirming their selection of chassis set-up options, depending on how the roads develop and how much they clean as more cars complete the stages.
Last year's winner, Kris Meeke quickly found his bearings again on the Mexican roads that he loves, setting the fastest time on his third run. On his return to the WRC, six years after his last appearance at this event, Sébastien Loeb gradually upped his pace in the C3 WRC. The nine-time rally world champion took the ninth fastest time on his fourth attempt, finishing the session just five tenths of a second off the top five.
Although the rally officially gets underway this evening with a super special stage (2.53km) in the streets of the former mining city of Guanajuato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the real action does not start until tomorrow. Friday's leg will be the longest of the rally (155.15km in 9 stages), featuring the iconic El Chocolate test (31.44km) – a genuine test of guts and bravery – that Kris and Sébastien will be tackling in seventh and eleventh positions in the running order.
WHAT THEY SAID
"We had a productive shakedown this morning and I felt comfortable in my C3 WRC. This is an event where we were able to produce a solid performance last year and I have felt good since we arrived here in Mexico. Even in recce, I enjoyed driving through these stages again. It was nice to see a bit sun after two winter rallies. I hope the feeling will be the same in the race, but you must bear in mind that this is an event where you have to remain alert to make sure you don't get caught out by something, especially a large stone or rock."
"I didn't know the route and I hadn't seen any onboard videos beforehand so I initially just focused on getting my bearings on this stage, without taking any risks. We also had to change my driving position because to start with, I couldn't see very well. But I gradually found some rhythm as we completed the five runs. It's still difficult for me to know whereabouts I'm going to be in the standings. In any event, we'll need to be comfortable straight away!"
- Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:41.0
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:41.4
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:42.8
- Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:42.8
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:43.1
- Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:43.3
- Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:43.4
- Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:43.4
- Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:43.6
- Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:45.3