Sebastien Loeb was undoubtedly the man to beat as Rally Mexico, the WRC's second event of the year, really kicked up some dirt...
Mexico: the land where the air is rarefied, the locals are mostly sleeping (according to Richard Hammond at least) and Sebastien Loeb keeps on winning. “I’m not sure why I always go well there,” said the seven-time world champion before the start. “Maybe it’s because my driving style is quite clean, you need this in Mexico because the high altitude means that the cars don’t have much power.”
"If you’re fighting with Sebastien Loeb you at least want to start on a level playing field.”
After a ceremonial start in Guanajuato, described by Chris Patterson - Petter Solberg’s co-driver - as “merry chaos”, the real action got underway on Friday. Straight away it looked like the Red Bull-backed factory Citroens had an advantage, with Sebastien Ogier moving in front of Loeb. “I’m still learning the car on gravel, so it’s not flat-out yet,” said Ogier at the end of day one. “But now that I’m in front, I’m going to be sweeping the road clean tomorrow, which is a disadvantage. If you’re fighting with Sebastien Loeb, you at least want to start on a level playing field.”
Sure enough, Loeb soon moved ahead, while the Ford drivers could only watch as the two red Citroens disappeared into the distance.
“The team is telling me that I probably need to drive more cleanly on the racing line,” said Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala. “I just try too hard sometimes and can’t keep it tidy. I think that’s what’s happening here.”
At the end of the second day, Loeb encountered an unexpected glitch in his Citroen’s normally metronomic reliability. “I got to 500 metres before the start of the stage and the car stayed stuck in third gear,” he reported. “The linkage was broken so I took a pin off the rear bumper to fix it and that seemed to work. I just hope it lasts.”
Proving that rallying requires the driving skills of Kimi Raikkonen combined with the mechanical ingenuity of Fred Flintstone, Loeb held his car together to start the last day of the rally 10.5 seconds behind Ogier.
“I guess that’s what happens when you have two competitive drivers in the same team."
Then, on the final morning, a disaster for Citroen: Ogier crashed out of the lead on the first stage. “I really wasn’t happy to see him there: we are team mates but there were no team orders,” said Loeb. “I guess that’s what happens when you have two competitive drivers in the same team. I had to push him because I have my own championship to think of.”
The Frenchman cruised to a comfortable win from the Ford duo of Hirvonen and Latvala. Hirvonen won only one stage but luckily for him it was the live televised Power Stage at the end of the rally, which awards three extra championship points. “I’ve always liked that stage best, there was good grip and it worked out well for us,” he said at the finish.
Ford boss Malcolm Wilson could hardly believe his team’s good fortune. “It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I’ll happily take it,” he grinned. “To come away from here extending our lead in both the drivers and manufacturers championships is a great result; more than we were hoping for.”
Privateer Citroen driver Petter Solberg was a grateful fourth after losing more than six minutes on the opening day with an electrical problem. “On the one hand, I’m disappointed not to be on the podium but really I should be happy as I could have been a spectator by the end of Friday,” he concluded.
Problem is, there were so many spectators already on Rally Mexico that it’s hard to imagine finding room for any more…
- Check out redbull.com's event page dedicated to Rally Mexico
- Sebastien Loeb's profile on redbull.com
- Get the latest on Rally Mexico at the official WRC site