OGIER-INGRASSIA’S CITROËN STRETCHES LEAD
Impressively calm and collected, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia produced another first class performance to extend their overall lead to 27.0s following two more stage wins in the C3 WRC. After increasingly getting to grips with the subtleties of the Mexican roads, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm were unfortunately stopped in their tracks following an off, but the Finns will return to action tomorrow.
The weekend’s longest leg with 138.37km of timed stages, day two was widely regarded as daunting, especially with two runs on the long, technical stages of Guanajuatito (25.90km) and Otates (32.27km).
The opening pass on the first of these tests would unfortunately prove fatal for Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm. Having set off with the intention of continuing to familiarise themselves with the specifics of this round, they were very much on the pace; this was indeed reflected in their split times on the stage, more or less matching those of the world championship leader. However, the Finns were caught out a few hundred metres from the stage end by the low grip and slid off the road. They will be back in action tomorrow, as they look to get more miles under their belts on gravel in the C3 WRC.
The stage was red flagged following the incident, meaning Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were awarded a notional time that took into account the slow puncture the French pair had picked up during the test. They slipped back to second place as a result. With almost forty kilometres still to cover and no spare tyre, it looked like they would have a tricky morning loop ahead, given the high risk of encountering loose stones on the racing line from their position of seventh on the road. And yet the French pair once again showed their class with a controlled performance, retaking the lead on Otates with the second fastest time, just 1.2s off the pace! They then extended their lead to 19.2s with a stage win just before the mid-leg break.
The masterful display of the six-time world rally champions continued in the afternoon heat, as temperatures moved close to thirty degrees in the air, fifty on the ground and a sweltering sixty degrees in the cabin of the C3 WRC! The only crew to play it safe and take two spare tyres, they even had the gall to claim their sixth stage win of the weekend on the second pass on Guanajuatito, increasing their overall lead even further despite carrying an extra twenty-five kilos. They then skilfully controlled from the front for the rest of the loop, despite an overshoot on one of the super special stages (SS16) and a minor technical issue on the final test (SS18), ending day two with a lead of 27.0s over their closest challengers.
With three more stages to complete, two of which are around twenty-five kilometres long, tomorrow’s final leg will be another substantial challenge and will doubtless also provide its share of difficulties.
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“Only champions of the calibre of Sébastien and Julien can continue to secure stage wins when they don't have a spare tyre left or indeed when they are the only ones to be carrying two spares.They produced another incredibly solid performance today, despite a very minor mistake. We are now going to do everything necessary to provide them with a completely reconditioned C3 WRC so that they can complete the job tomorrow, although we know that the stages will be very tricky again on the final leg. Finally, we’re disappointed for Esapekka and Janne, who made a minor but unfortunately costly mistake. Up to that point, they had shown good pace, despite their lack of knowledge of the event.”
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver
“It was a long and difficult leg, which started with a puncture and finished with a minor technical issue at the very end, but overall, we drove well.I’m delighted to finish today’s leg with an increased lead, and I trust my team to make sure the C3 WRC is back in perfect working order for tomorrow. Because we need to finish the job and score maximum points.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver
“I came into a tight, downhill left-hand corner and it was more slippery than I had anticipated. I ran wide and the car was left balanced at the edge of the road, in the ditch. There was no damage to the car, but we were stuck and had no chance of getting going again. Obviously, I’m sorry for the team, but the main thing is that I have learned a lot at this event, a lot more than last year. I’m starting to understand how you need to drive here and I’m going to try and keep adding to my experience tomorrow.”
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:18:33.8
- Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +27.0
- Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +29.2
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:15.7
- Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:37.1
- Guerra / Zapata (Skoda Fabia R5) +12:06.0
- Bulacia Wilkinson / Cretu (Skoda Fabia R5) +15:39.6
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +16:32.4
media.citroenracing.com Photo credit: © @World
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