Ogier Wins but Loeb Stars in Mexico

Sebastien Ogier reclaimed the World Rally Championship points lead with a dominant victory on Rally Mexico, beating Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke. Despite running second on the road the M-Sport Fiesta driver put in a series of blistering stage times to remain within striking distance of early rally leader Sordo and the Citroens of Meeke and series returnee Sebastien Loeb. Sordo won two stages on Friday to lead from Meeke, but Loeb marked his first WRC round since Monte Carlo 2015 by usurping the Spaniard on Saturday morning with two stage victories of his own.

Both Sordo and Loeb then suffered front-left punctures on Saturday afternoon, allowinh Ogier to hit the front and from then on, took four stage wins to extend his lead over Meeke, who spun three times on SS20, with the world champion going on to claim his second win of the season.

Loeb hit a stone and lost more than two minutes when he and co-driver Daniel Elena stopped to change a wheel. Meeke would have challenged Ogier more were it not for two spins in successive stages, the latter on a narrow piece of road which forced the Northern Irishman to drive the wrong way to rotate the car. A further half-roll on SS20 after sliding on a cobbled hairpin cost Meeke another 45 seconds, dropping him behind Sordo to third. Great performances from Pontus Tidemand, who took WRC2 honours at a canter and Gus Greensmith, claiming superb seventh and ninth places in the overall top-ten results respectively.

Top Ten Finishers
Pos.....Driver .....Team ..... Car ..... Gap
1. Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport Ford WRT 3h53m58.0s
2. Dani Sordo, C.del Barrio Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 1m13.6s
3. Kris Meeke, P.Nagle Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 1m29.2s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 1m48.4s
5. Sebastien Loeb, D.Elena Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 2m34.6s
6. Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 9m13.0s
7. Pontus Tidemand, J.Andersson Skoda Motorsport 10m34.7s
8. Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 15m47.1s
9. Gus Greensmith, C.Parry Ford 17m19.3s
10. Pedro Heller, P.Olmos Ford 24m28.1s

12th March, 2018

Sordo Leads in Mexico from Charging Loeb

All the pre-rally conjecture and informed speculation regarding Nine-time world champion Sebastien Loebs WRC return and likely pace was put into perspective as the Frenchman hit the gound running and secured his first stage victory since Monte Carlo in 2015 by setting the fastest time on SS7! He then repeated the win on his second pass through this stage and in doing so, jumped ahead of both his Citroen team-mate Kris Meeke - who spun on both SS7 and SS8 - and Ott Tanak, to lie just 7.5s off rally-leader Sordo heading into day two. Sordo had seen his lead reduced to just under eight seconds as returnee Loeb claimed the two stage wins.

However, Rally Mexico's grueling stages tested the entire WRC field, with a number of leading runners hitting trouble. Elfyn Evans withdrew after co-driver Daniel Barritt suffered a concussion in a high-speed accident on the first run of Ortega. The M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC was driveable after the sizeable incident but the pair pulled out on safety grounds. Toyota endured a miserable day despite Tanak taking the fight to Loeb and Sordo with victory on the SS9 superspecial as night fell. High engine temperatures forced the team to switch off its Anti-Lag System (ALS), resulting in a significant loss in power for its drivers.

Esapekka Lappi had an off on SS7 and failed to complete the stage while team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala fared little better, retiring on the road section after his alternator failed following SS8. Latvala will return for Saturday's stages. There was also drama for championship leader Thierry Neuville who suffered a loss of fuel pressure in his Hyundai i20 prior to SS5, the Leon street stage. Neuville tried to remedy the issue by opening the door to gain access to the fuel bypass valve behind his seat, but the door slammed shut on the Belgian's arm, causing bruising. A further loss of power steering on SS8 means Neuville lies in eighth place and faces an early starting position on day two.

Out front Sordo - running 10th on the road - continued to put in fast stages times to extend his advantage over first Meeke and then Tanak. Loeb and Tanak's stage wins bring them to within 7.5s and 11s respectively of the Hyundai driver.

Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen were in a fight of their own in the afternoon, with the pair swapping fifth and sixth positions on three successive stages between SS6 and SS8. Ogier, courtesy of his SS10 win at the Leon Autodromo, holds a 1.5s lead over the Norwegian. With Evans already out and the team's third driver Teemu Suninen also crashing on SS7, Ogier is M-Sport's only realistic chance of points from Mexico.

In WRC2, Swede Pontus Tidemand made the most of problems for almost all his rivals and holds a 3m38.3s lead over British privateer Guss Greensmith in second.

Leading positions after SS10
Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Dani Sordo, C.del Barrio Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 1h47m55.4s
2 Sebastien Loeb, D.Elena Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 7.2s
3 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 11.0s
4 Kris Meeke, P.Nagle Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 25.0s
5 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport Ford WRT 30.2s
6 Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 31.7s
7 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 2m01.9s
8 Pontus Tidemand, J.Andersson Skoda Motorsport 5m05.6s
9 Marco Bulacia Wilkinson, F.Mussano Ford 12m41.5s

10th March, 2018

Neuville wins from Breen in Sweden

Thierry Neuville scored a dominant performance on Rally Sweden, while Craig Breen took a career-best second. Neuville had controlled the rally from the first stage proper on Friday but a spin on Saturday morning's loop allowed Breen to close. Neuville then re-established his lead on Saturday afternoon and sealed victory by 19.8 seconds.

Rounding out the podium was Andres Mikkelsen. The third Hyundai of Hayden Paddon held fourth for most of the rally, but he was beaten to the position by the leading Toyota - the car that won last year's event in Jari-Matti Latvala's hands - of Esapekka Lappi on Sunday morning.

Lappi had been in a fight for the podium but a mistake on Friday left him scrabbling to rebound. He did so emphatically on Sunday morning, and was aided further by a Paddon trip into a snowbank on the powerstage. Lappi also claimed five points for the powerstage win to add to his comeback drive. Paddon did hold onto fifth despite his off, with Mads Ostberg close to usurping him.

Ostberg was making his debut in a C3 WRC and was in the top five for most of the event, but struggled for a consistent feel from him car and eventually reverted to his original set-up. Latvala was another driver who struggled with set-up and showed no sign of matching last year's winning performance. A front driveshaft issue did not help his cause on Friday, and he eventually finished seventh.

On his first outing in a modern World Rally Car this year, Teemu Suninen finished as the top M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC driver, despite being ultra-critical of his own driving on his first outing in Sweden in modern machinery. Ott Tanak (Toyota) and Suninen's team-mate Sebastien Ogier both struggled with road sweeping on Friday and struggled to rebound.

Tanak did the best job, moving through the top 10 before he was caught behind the stalled Citroen of Kris Meeke on Saturday and dropped down to ninth, where he remained. Meeke retired after hitting a snow bank, followed by engine problems. Ogier took second on the powerstage, claiming four points, but was also hit with a penalty for being late to time control before the final stage. The penalty meant Ogier dropped to 11th and promoted team-mate Elfyn Evans into 10th, but Evans himself was later hit with a penalty - for being 26 minutes late to the time control holding area - which returned Ogier to the final points position.

Takamoto Katsuta earned WRC2 honours in a brilliant drive. The Finnish-based Japanese driver beat reigning champion Pontus Tidemand to the honours.

Top Ten Finishers
Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 2h52m13.1s
2 Craig Breen, S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 19.8s
3 Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 28.3s
4 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 45.8s
5 Hayden Paddon, S.Marshall Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 54.4s
6 Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 1m15.3s
7 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 2m04.9s
8 Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula M-Sport Ford WRT 2m52.2s
9 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 3m44.4s
10 Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt M-Sport Ford WRT 5m27.4s

Pos Driver Points
1 Thierry Neuville 41
2 Sebastien Ogier 31
3 Jari-Matti Latvala 23
4 Esapekka Lappi 23
5 Ott Tanak 21
6 Andreas Mikkelsen 21
7 Craig Breen 20
8 Kris Meeke 17
9 Hayden Paddon 10
10 Elfyn Evans 8

18th February, 2018

Lancia Fulvia wins 2018 Monte Historique

Perusing the eclectic range of cars and the broad international spectrum of competitors that filled the entry of the 21st running of the Monte Carlo Historique rally proved that the true spirit of the original event, first run in 1911, had been truly replicated by its 2018 historic parody, with crews from 8 nationalities filling the top ten overall positions in the final results.

Overall winners were the Italian crew of Gianmaria Aghem and Diego Cumino in a 1200 Lancia Fulvia, a car hardy carrying a surfeit of power for rallying in the Alpes Martimes. Second place was claimed by the Greek team of George Delaportas and Spyros Moustakas in a VW Golf GTI that had been previous rally leaders, and third place fell to the Polish Zastava 1100 of Stanislaw Postawa and Andrzej Postawka, another rally car not troubled by an excess of engine power.

For the record, the best placed IRDC members in 2018 were Zak Matten/Clifford Debeno in a Ford Escort RS 1600 in 43rd position, making them winners of the venerable IRDC Tyresoles Trophy. In second place was the sibling crew of Nick and Peter Moss 78th overall in their BMW 2002 TI and in third place Peter Barker with vastly experienced co-driver Peter Scott, 125th overall in a Triumph TR4. In the team contest, the 2 five-car IRDC teams finished 14th and 24th out of 25, this prestigious category won by the Italian Equipe Scuderia Milano Autostoriche, which included the overall rally winners. There were 259 rally finishers and 41 retirements.

13th February, 2018

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