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Rally Review: Rally Mexico

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Jari-Matti Latvala kept his cool in the Mexican heat to score his first World Rally Championship points of the season, winning the Rally Guanajuato Mexico.

The Finn was faultless and, following previous retirements in both Monte Carlo and Sweden this year, dominated the third event of the season.

After finishing the final stage the Finnish driver seemed as relieved as he was delighted at finally beginning his title challenge in earnest.

“It’s a fantastic feeling. I have had such a difficult start to the season.”

The victory is the 16th of Latvala’s career, making him the most successful driver in WRC history never to have won the world championship.

Latvala finished just over a minute ahead of team-mate Sébastien Ogier in second place, securing the first maximum-points haul for Volkswagen Motorsport in this year’s Manufacturers’ Championship.

Volkswagen’s Director of Motorsport, Jost Capito, said;

“Rally Mexico is so very special… It’s a hard rally and having a 1-2 and seeing Jari-Matti winning his first rally of the season is absolutely fantastic.”

M-Sport’s Mads Østberg is now second in the Driver’s Championship, after ensuring Ford’s 200th consecutive points-scoring finish.

The Norwegian was promoted to the third step of the podium after Dani Sordo was given a two minute penalty for using too many tyres on the event.

The rules state that a maximum of 28 tyres can be used and the Hyundai driver used 29.

Sordo might count himself somewhat fortunate that the penalty only demoted him to fourth position overall.


Rally Mexico is the first gravel event of the season, and was where reigning world champion Sébastien Ogier first tasted WRC victory in 2008, driving in the Junior World Rally Championship.

This year’s event was the Frenchman’s 100th WRC start and Ogier, alongside co-driver Julien Ingrassia, has won the rally for the last three seasons.

As the current championship leader, Ogier was the first driver to tackle the Mexican mountain stages.

Running first on the dry, dusty, rock-strewn roads is always a huge disadvantage, sweeping away loose gravel with the cars behind able to take advantage of extra grip on the resulting racing line.

By contrast, Volkswagen team-mate Latvala was the eighth car into the stages on the opening two days and the Finn took full advantage.

Stage four, El Chocolate, was particularly sweet for Latvala.

At over 54km long the stage is the first of many long-distance trials, and at a height of over 2700 metres, is nicknamed ‘the roof of the WRC’.

The altitude means less oxygen is available to the engines, making acceleration slower as a result of the loss in power.

Latvala was riding high however, and the Flying Finn was more than 22 seconds quicker than Ogier through the stage.

Thierry Neuville’s hopes of a second WRC win were sent plummeting back down to earth on the same stage.

The Belgian had won the event’s opening stage before losing the rear of the car and colliding with a post which forced him to retire.

The damage to the car was repaired and the Hyundai driver would re-enter the event the following day.


Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo overcame throttle problems in his i20 to finish the first full day in third place, but was already more than a minute behind Latvala.

Andreas Mikkelsen also had a disappointing Friday, claiming that his Polo R handled “like a snake.”

The Norwegian, who was second on the road behind Ogier, misjudged a corner and collected a hosepipe as he slid wide and into the front garden of a nearby house.

He continued on and ended the day in fourth position, ahead of Hayden Paddon.

Mads Østberg cited an incorrect tyre choice, opting for the hard compound instead of soft, as the reason for his stage times.

He was sixth at the end of the second day, more than two and a half minutes behind the rally leader.


Saturday saw Latvala continue to extend his lead over the chasing pack, eager to maximise the distance between himself and Ogier before the road order would be reversed the following day.

The event’s third day saw several competitors forced to call it quits.

First, Eric Camilli clipped a rock and rolled his Fiesta RS on the opening stage of the day.

That’s the M-Sport driver’s third retirement in as many rallies.

On the next stage Thierry Neuville, driving under Rally 2 regulations, was taken to hospital following a big accident.

Both he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were unhurt.

Then, on SS15, Andreas Mikkelsen confessed to a momentary lapse of concentration that saw his Polo R leave the road and end his hopes for a podium position.

After a difficult Friday, Saturday had been much better for the Norwegian and he had closed the gap between him and Sordo to just four and a half seconds.

His retirement meant that Sordo was more than two minutes ahead of Østberg, who climbed up to fourth.


Sunday saw only two competitive stages but the first of those was the longest stage in the WRC for thirty years.

The drivers were expected to take around fifty minutes to complete the 80km Guanajuato stage.

The Volkswagen drivers were simply too good for the rest of the field, and with the running order reversed on the final day Ogier showed his natural pace.

Ogier won the stage, beating Latvala’s time by 25 seconds, but the Frenchman was still more than a minute behind his team-mate with just one stage left to go.

Hayden Paddon finished the marathon stage with the third fastest time of 49:07.6, but he was still a minute off of Ogier’s time, such was the Frenchman’s blistering pace.

The final stage of the rally was the powerstage, and Ogier was once again too fast for his rivals to catch him.

He made it a hat-trick of powerstage wins in 2016, with Latvala finishing the stage with the second fastest time, and Paddon third.


Ogier now has a 35 point lead in the Drivers’ Championship, with 77 points in total.

Østberg now sits in second place with 42 points, with fellow Norwegian Mikkelsen dropping to third with 33 points.

Hyundai drivers Sordo and Paddon are fourth and fifth respectively.

Latvala’s victory, with his additional powerstage points, mean he is now in sixth position in the championship.


The World Rally Championship returns next month, when the championship moves from North America to South America.

Can Latvala make it two wins from two and continue to chase down Ogier? Will Ogier make an immediate return to winning ways? Can anyone break VW’s winning streak?

We’ll find out when Rally Argentina begins on April 21st.

Latvala Mexico

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