The third round of the 2015 World Rally Championship took place on the gravel roads of Rally Mexico. The cars tackled 21 special stages in the oxygen-sapping mountains around Guanajuato, with the rally promising plenty of action and casualties. This season it didn’t disappoint as over half of the WRC field retired at some point during the four days, sometimes in spectacular fashion. But dodging the big rocks on the way to his third victory this season was Volkwagen’s Sebastien Ogier, who was left clear at the front after major problems for his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala and Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville. Ogier’s winning margin was over a minute from the Citroen of Mads Ostberg, who held off the challenge of the third Volkswagen and countryman Andreas Mikkelsen.
The rally started with two short spectator stages, which were won by Neuville and Ogier respectively to give the latter a slender lead at the top of the leaderboard. Italy’s Lorenzo Bertelli, who had only moved up to the WRC category this year, surprised everyone with a second fastest time on the opening stage, before dropping back and eventually going off the road. He wasn’t the only casualty of the day either. The 44km El Chocolate stage claimed Robert Kubica, Hayden Paddon and Kris Meeke, whilst Ott Tanak had arguably the most dramatic retirement for years when his car crashed into a lake but luckily Tanak and co-driver Raigo Molder escaped before the car became submerged by water. Local hero Benito Guerra Jr and Bertelli’s incidents completed a brutal day for the WRC drivers. Ogier meanwhile continued his charge and built up a lead over Neuville however the Belgian would retire on stage 8 with a puncture that led to a roll. His lead over team-mate Latvala stood at 12 seconds whilst there was a huge battle between the Norwegians for third place; Ostberg led Mikkelsen by a handful of seconds at the close of the day.
The second day began with Ogier and Latvala exchanging seconds at the top of the leaderboard but on the 43km Otates stage, the Finn hit a bank and limped to the end of the stage having had his rear-left wheel ripped from the car. That left Ogier in the clear and he won four of the eight stages to give himself a 1m15sec advantage at the front. Ostberg spun on stage 13 and lost 15 seconds but clung on to second place in front of Mikkelsen, who was trying to gain experience on the rally. The leading M-Sport and Hyundai drivers were Elfyn Evans and Dani Sordo in fourth and fifth, though the latter lost a minute after clouting a rock and damaging a wheel. Sordo’s team-mate Neuville had moved back up to 11th after his retirement on the opening day whilst Tanak’s car was, amazingly, pulled out of the lake and repaired by the M-Sport mechanics though engine failure meant he couldn’t complete the day’s opener.
The final day featured just three stages including the Power Stage however the 55.8km monster Guanajuatito stood between the drivers and the finish. The stage claimed Bertelli, who after his promising start had suffered problems on the previous two days. All of the other WRC cars made it through though, including Ogier, who also claimed the Power Stage victory to win the rally and give him a 34 point lead in the drivers’ standings. He headed home Ostberg, who achieved his best finish since Italy last year, after Mikkelsen spun on the day’s opener. Evans, Sordo and Martin Prokop completed the WRC drivers who survived the whole rally without needing to retire. Neuville had recovered to eighth place and gained a point on the Power Stage to leave him third in the championship behind Ostberg.
In the top support category, WRC 2, Qatari veteran Nasser Al-Attiyah started his title defence with a dominant victory en route to seventh in the entire rally. He had been in a huge battle with Ukrainian Yuriy Protasov in a Ford Fiesta RRC which ended when he went off the road and terminally damaged the radiator. Al-Attiyah’s margin was over eight minutes over Nicolas Fuchs, who had overtaken Jari Ketomaa when the Finn broke a driveshaft, though Ketomaa moved into the lead of the championship thanks to his win in Sweden. Another Qatari driver, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, took fourth with Protasov restarting on the final day to finish fifth. Max Rendina was sixth and the only finishing Production Cup driver following Simone Tempestini’s retirement on the final stage of the rally. Stephane Lefebvre, Valeriy Gorban and Radik Shaymiev were the other drivers to not finish the rally, with Jourdan Serderidis the final WRC 2 runner in seventh.
Final Classifications – Rally Mexico 2015
|Pos.||Driver Name||Co-Driver Name||Car||Time/Diff|
|1||S. Ogier||J. Ingrassia||Volkswagen Polo R WRC||4:19:13.4|
|2||M. Ostberg||J. Andersson||Citroen DS3 WRC||+1:18.8|
|3||A. Mikkelsen||O. Floene||Volkswagen Polo R WRC||+1:25.1|
|4||E. Evans||D. Barritt||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+3:40.2|
|5||D. Sordo||M. Marti||Hyundai i20 WRC||+5:01.8|
|6||M. Prokop||J. Tomanek||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+6:36.1|
|7||N. Al-Attiyah||M. Baumel||Ford Fiesta RRC||+14:52.7|
|8||T. Neuville||N. Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 WRC||+22:43.3|
|9||N. Fuchs||F. Mussano||Ford Fiesta R5||+22:49.0|
|10||J. Ketomaa||K. Lindstrom||Ford Fiesta R5||+23:10.2|
Final Classifications – WRC 2
|Pos.||Driver Name||Co-Driver Name||Car||Time/Diff|
|1||N. Al-Attiyah||M. Baumel||Ford Fiesta RRC||4:34:06.1|
|2||N. Fuchs||F. Mussano||Ford Fiesta R5||+7:56.3|
|3||J. Ketomaa||K. Lindstrom||Ford Fiesta R5||+8:17.5|
|4||A. Al-Kuwari||M. Clarke||Ford Fiesta RRC||+8:52.1|
|5||Y. Protasov||P. Cherepin||Ford Fiesta RRC||+18:38.1|
|6||M. Rendina||M. Pizzuti||Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X||+23:13.8|
|7||J. Serderidis||F. Miclotte||Citroen DS3 R5||+43:15.7|
WRC Drivers’ Championship After Round 3
|1||S. Ogier||25||25 + 3||25 + 3||81|
|2||A. Mikkelsen||15||15||15 + 2||47|
|3||T. Neuville||10||18 + 2||4 + 1||35|
|4||M. Ostberg||12||1 + 1||18||32|
|6||J. Latvala||18 + 1||–||–||19|
WRC Manufacturers’ Championship After Round 3
|1||Volkswagen||25 + 18||25 + 0||25 + 6||99|
|2||Hyundai||15 + 12||18 + 10||12 + 8||75|
|3||M-Sport||10 + 2||12 + 8||15 + 1||48|
|4||Citroen||8 + 4||6 + 2||18 + 4||42|