The eagerly-awaited first day of Rally Guanajuato Mexico has been dominated by the Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3 WRCs. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena are separated by only 2.3s after the first ten stages, and they have opened up a gap of over a minute on their rivals. Tomorrow, it will be the Citroën drivers turn to sweep the layer of dust covering the gravel roads near Léon.
The Mexican spectators were as enthusiastic as ever when they welcomed the crews in the World Rally Championship in the streets of Guanajuato. As soon as they got down from the podium, the drivers set off to tackle the first stage on the paved streets of the former mining city. Petter Solberg in his Citroën DS3 WRC set the quickest time and took the lead in the event.
However, the race really began this Friday morning on the gravel roads in the vicinity of Léon. Sébastien Ogier and Sébastien Loeb, who were fourth and sixth in the starting order of the first day established by the world championship positions, took advantage of roads that had already been swept by the cars starting in front of them. Ogier set the quickest times in SS2 and 3 and went into the lead. Loeb also showed the speed of the DS3 WRC by being fastest in SS4 and 5. The seven-time world champion came back to the service park for the midday halt with a lead of just seven tenths of a second over his team-mate!
The no-holds-barred battle continued throughout the afternoon. Ogier was again quickest in Alfaro and Ortega, but Loeb fought back in Cubilete (SS8), which proved decisive in deciding the starting order for the second leg at the end of this loop. Ogier was still in the lead 1.6s in front of his team-mate. After the two super stages the final gap was 2.3s. After losing seven minutes because of a connector that had come off (SS6), Petter Solberg was down in thirteenth place.
“My strategy was simple. I had to push as hard as possible today,” was how Ogier summed things up. “Our fourth position on the road wasn’t too bad but not ideal in that the other DS3 WRCs started just behind me. In these conditions, the fact that I’ve been quicker than Petter and Seb all day makes me very happy. It’ll be a lot more difficult tomorrow as I have to open the road. I’m not in the best position to win the rally, but I don’t have any other choice. I’m going to continue pushing as hard as I can.”
Loeb’s summary is even more positive: “I couldn’t really have hoped for much better on the first day. My aim was not to be in the lead this evening. The situation soon became pretty clear where our rivals were concerned, and the rally quickly turned into a scrap with Sébastien. I think we were both going flat out and the next round looks interesting. We’ll have to see how much sweeping influences things. With the new cars and the Michelin tyres I have the impression that the gaps are smaller than in the past. I can’t wait for tomorrow !”
Olivier Quesnel, the Citroën Racing Team Principal, is satisfied with the performance of the DS3 WRCs. “We felt confident after our development tests, but we were waiting impatiently for the verdict of the stop watch to judge the performance of our new car. The Citroëns set all the fastest times today and their reliability is pretty good so far.”
1. S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia Citroën DS3 WRC +1h27m.22.3s
2. S. Loeb / D. Elena Citroën DS3 WRC +2.9s
3. M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m19.9s
4. J. Latvala / M. Anttila Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m53.6s
5. E. Novikov / S. Prévot Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3m04.0s
6. H. Solberg / I. Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3m16.5s
7. D. Kuipers / F. Miclotte Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5m06.8s
8. N. Al Attiyah / G. Bernacchini Ford Fiesta S2000 +5m15.2s
9. O. Tanak / K. Sikk Ford Fiesta S2000 +5m42.2s
10. M. Prokop / J. Tomanek Ford Fiesta S2000 +6m07.8s
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