– Seven stage wins for Ogier/Ingrassia, despite unfavourable starting position
– Latvala/Anttila on course for the podium in third place
– 17 of 33 possible top-three times go to the Polo R WRC
The fastest street sweepers in the world drive a Volkswagen. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) produced energetic displays at the wheel of their Polo R WRCs to overcome the disadvantage of having to open the route at the Rally Mexico. The conditions improved with every World Rally Car that followed them onto the Mexican roads, sweeping them clear of the layer of loose gravel. The second-placed pair in the World Championship, Ogier/Ingrassia, clocked the fastest time on seven of the first eleven special stages to lead the field by 26.1 seconds. World Championship leaders Latvala/Anttila, who were first onto the special stages, currently occupy the third and final podium position after day one of the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
The route on the opening day of the rally took the competitors from about 1,800 to 2,800 metres above sea level. With temperatures around the 30-degree mark, the organisers threw in the first real toughie of the rally in the form of the 44.03-kilometre “El Chocolate” special stage, which the drivers had to tackle twice. After eleven of 22 stages, Volkswagen has 17 top-three times, an impressive eight of which produced stage wins.
The Mexican debut of Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) in the third Polo R WRC came to a premature end on day one of the rally. Lying second overall, the duo skidded off the road on the third special stage, damaging the suspension on their World Rally Car in the process. Mikkelsen/Markkula will return to action on Saturday under Rally2 regulations.
Quotes after day one of the Rally Mexico
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“The day went much better than expected. I thought it would be much more difficult due to our early, and thus unfavourable, starting position. The gravel is extremely slippery, plus it is very hot in the cockpit – it is very easy to make mistakes. First place is more than we could possibly have expected, and puts us in a great position to win here again. However, I think we will have an exciting battle with Mads Østberg and my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala from now on. Compliments to the guys in our engine department: we were at almost 2,800 metres above sea level today, and the turbo engine in the Polo R WRC is in a class of its own – just as it was last year.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“To be honest, third place is a pleasant surprise. Opening the stages today was anything but a stroll in the park. In particular, the 44-kilometre ‘El Chocolate’ special stage was extremely soft and slippery, so there was a real risk of making a mistake with far-reaching consequences. We tried to drive in a fast and focussed manner, in order to stay in with a good chance for the rest of the rally. That paid dividends. We will have a much better starting position tomorrow. Then it will be someone else’s turn to sweep the streets, just as we had to today. However, there is still a long way to go to get on that podium. I will definitely also be trying to put some pressure on the guys ahead of me.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“I was actually feeling good and had a good rhythm. Everything was going well. But then came a left-hander that got a little tighter than I expected. I made the mistake two days ago during the Recce. My pace notes for this point were probably a bit too optimistic. I skidded, found myself sideways on and hit a stone with the rear-right of the car. That was enough to take the wheel clean off, and that was that for today. Crashes like that make you realise that there is no substitute for experience. We found that out the hard way on our Mexico debut. It is a shame, but we will be back in business tomorrow under Rally2 regulations. We now want to gain as much experience as possible, in order to be able to push hard again here next year.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“Today, I would like to pay several huge compliments. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were in a league of their own, although they were faced with the disadvantage of being one of the first out onto the route. The same compliment goes to Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila, who also made the most of their situation. First and third is a superb result. And we also have our engine department to thank for the success. They did a fantastic job of adjusting the Polo R WRC to cope with the high altitude and came up with an intelligent engine control unit. I take my hat off to them.”