French driver Sebastien Ogier (Toyota GAZOO Racing) has won the Rally Mexico, third round of the WRC´s calendar amidst the cancellation of Sunday’s session in the face of the expanding coronavirus pandemic. Second and third classified were Ott Tänak (Hyundai Motorsport WRT) and an excellent Teemu Suninen (M-Sport).
This is the first victory for the French driver wearing the colours of the Japanese team and one that has also propped him up to the lead of the standings.
The champion from Gap has thus drawn level with compatriot Sebastien Loeb in number of Mexican triumphs, at a race which has been largely overshadowed by the pandemic that is battering the planet. With their six victories each, they share the honour of being the most successful drivers in the history of the rally.
Ogier has also further extended his reputation as a multifaceted driver after taking the win with a sixth different car. His first three victories came at the wheel of three different Citroëns (C4, DS3 and C3) his fourth on a Volkswagen Polo and his fifth on a Ford Fiesta.
At the end of the race, however, the six-time-champion confessed he had a bittersweet taste in his mouth:
“I have mixed feelings. I am happy about the victory but I think there are other things which are a lot more important. In fact, I cannot wait to go back to my family”.
In the time’s table, Ogier has edged Hyundai Motorsport’s Ott Tänak by 27,8 seconds. Meanwhile, the Finn Teemu Suninen has completed the podium 37,9 seconds behind the victor.
The defending champion managed to recover from a mistake on the first stage and perform an aggressive offensive against Suninen, striping him of the second place at just three stages from the end of the race.
After the podium holders came Toyota teammates Elfyn Evans (+1:13.4 seconds) and Kalle Rovanperä (+2:20.5 seconds). The Welsh driver is the one to have come worse off of the Mexican race, having lost the lead of the standings.
Ogier has thus ousted teammate Evans from the lead pushing the Welshman down to second place. The French leader now has a total of 6 points, eight more than the Briton and twenty more than third classified Thierry Neuville.
As far as the constructor’s standings go, the team lead by Tommi Mäkinen has widened its lead over its main adversary Hyundai. The Japanese team has 110 points, 21 more than the squad from Alzenau.
In theory, and after the postponement of the Argentinian Rally, the next round of the championship should be Rally Portugal, a great opportunity for Dani Sordo to make up for his bad luck at Rally Mexico. Now we can only cross our fingers and pray that the pandemic that his ravaging the planet has finally subsided by the end of May, in time for the Portuguese appointment.
It should be borne in mind that many of them come from places where heavy movement restrictions have been imposed over the last few hours.
On top of this, travel plans for a large number of people in the WRC entourage included stopovers in the United States on their way to Europe. The USA however, has denied entry to any citizen of the Old Continent for thirty days.
Before those circumstances, it was decided that it would be on everyone’s interest to cancel Sunday’s programme, which included three stages and 56 kilometres against the clock. Of course, after having completed 78 per cent of the total itinerary, points were shared amongst competitors in the usual manner.
Images of Rally Mexico. Toyota GAZOO Racing.