Kris Meeke threw down the gauntlet to his Rally Guanajuato Mexico rivals by winning Friday morning’s opening dirt road stage to lead this third round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Stage info: SS2
Duarte – Derramadero 1, 26.05km
Friday morning’s opener mixes familiar roads from various stages down the years, including an opening section last used five years ago, when it was driven in the opposite direction. After beginning on a double width road, it climbs quickly before becoming narrower and more technical. It is fast throughout, with many bumps and jumps sure to test drivers.
The Briton, winner in 2017 and fastest in yesterday’s shakedown, was quickest through Duarte – Derramadero by 2.8sec in his Citroën C3 to lead by 3.8sec from Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20.
Meeke was helped by his low start position. Those ahead ploughed a line through the thick gravel to leave a cleaner and faster surface which he exploited.
“I think I’m benefiting from the ruts more than the cleaning. The second part was pretty clean, the first part was like a beach, so much sand. I had a good rhythm. I even felt my soft tyres move a bit, so I’m happy I have a couple of hard tyres as well,” he said.
Sordo was also aided by his start position and the Spaniard was content with his performance after missing the previous round in Sweden.
“I lost a bit at the end because I was struggling on the tyres. It’s a very hard surface for the soft tyre at the end and I took it carefully. I also lost time in a big compression, we didn’t know the speed there,” he explained.
Second in the order Sébastien Ogier confounded all expectations by holding third overall after going fourth fastest in his Ford Fiesta. “It’s going to be a killer for us. I can’t see a line from the car in front to be honest, it’s still very loose,” he said.
Returning WRC legend Sébastien Loeb was quickly back in the groove, with third fastest in his C3, just 4.3sec off Meeke’s pace. He held fourth overall. “A good run but not perfect. In places I’m hesitating and I’m not there on the braking in others,” he said.
Ott Tänak’s Toyota Yaris and Elfyn Evans’ Fiesta rounded off the top six overall.
What of championship leader Thierry Neuville, who is opening the road on dirt for the first time? He struggled and was only 10th in his i20.
“I have to discover a bit. I feel like I’m not 100 per cent comfortable. We have to get used to this but at the beginning we struggled,” explained the Belgian.