TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team produced a strong performance on the first full day of Rally México, which ended with Sébastien Ogier in second place and Elfyn Evans in third.
After the FIA World Rally Championship was welcomed back to Mexico in spectacular style at Thursday evening’s opening street stages in Guanajuato, Friday’s route took the crews into the mountains above the city for a loop of three stages each run twice.
The high altitude of those stages – the Ortega test climbed to the highest point of the season at over 2700 metres above sea level – combined with temperatures approaching 30°C and rough gravel roads provided a significant new test for the latest generation of Rally1 cars. The GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID however showed good reliability and performance throughout, with all three TGR-WRT manufacturer entries finishing the day inside the top five.
Aiming for what would be a record seventh Mexico win, Ogier was fastest over both passes of the Ortega stage and was in a very close fight for the lead with Esapekka Lappi (Hyundai) from the morning’s first test. After the day’s six mountain stages they were separated by just 3.4 seconds, a gap that became 5.3s after two short but technical super specials that rounded out the day.
Running one place ahead of Ogier on the loose gravel roads, Evans had a solid and consistent day, moving up into third overall after the morning’s second stage. He is 30s from the lead tonight, and 9.7s ahead of fourth-placed Thierry Neuville (Hyundai).
Kalle Rovanperä was at a greater disadvantage running second on the road, and had to create his own lines through much of the morning when the car ahead was running slowly with an issue. He is fifth overall, 19.9s behind Neuville.
Making his first ever appearance at this event with the support of the TGR WRC Challenge Program, Takamoto Katsuta was gaining experience of the Mexican mountains this morning before a spin in SS5 took him off the road. He was unable to continue but should return tomorrow under restart rules if his car can be repaired tonight.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“This has been a positive Friday for us overall. Rally México is always a big challenge for the cars and for the drivers, and we have seen retirements and problems for some today but this is often the way that this rally is. Our cars have been running reliably though and our pace has been pretty good. We know Seb is very hungry to take another win here and he has made a strong start, but I must say that Esapekka has also done very well today and it’s been nice to see the battle between them. We also have Elfyn in third and Kalle in fifth and we’re looking forward to tomorrow, which is sure to be another challenging day for everyone.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“Today has not been too bad considering our road position. I think we did what we could and we tried our best and the time loss is probably what we would have expected running at the front. It was actually better than I was expecting in the first two stages this morning, even though we were kind of cleaning the road. We lost a bit more on the third stage when we didn’t have the hybrid available. There was still quite a lot of cleaning this afternoon but I think we managed it well. Tomorrow we’ll be in a better position and we need to be on the pace straightaway in the morning.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“Overall it’s been a positive day. Maybe we were not quite as fast as we would have liked to be, but Rally México is a rally where you also have to look after the cars and the tyres. So I was perhaps a bit careful in some moments but the feeling in the car has been quite OK. This afternoon there were a few surprises with a few big rocks and we lost a bit of time in some of those places, so we’ll look to try and improve on that for tomorrow. We’re on the podium for now but there’s still a very long way to go, with a big day tomorrow.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“It’s been a good day and we can be happy tonight. There was not so much more we could do except for taking a lot of risk and that’s never the approach I like to have on this rally. So I’m satisfied. Esapekka has done a great job as well and is in the lead, so there’s still some work for us to do and some analysis to do tonight to try and find a bit of extra speed. The gap is very close, and tomorrow’s stages have a different profile and different grip so we’ll see how the fight evolves.”
End of day two (Friday):
1 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) 1h25m12.0s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +5.3s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +30.1s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +39.8s
5 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +59.7s
6 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m27.2s
7 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +3m50.1s
8 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +3m58.6s
9 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +4m16.5s
10 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +4m53.1s
(Results as of 19:00 on Friday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Saturday’s format is similar to Friday and focused on the Sierra de Lobos mountains with another loop of three stages to be run twice, either side of mid-day service. The Las Dunas test will be run after both mountain loops, with the León super special to again round out the day.
Follow TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT:
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/TGR_WRC (@TGR_WRC)
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tgr_wrc/ (@TGR_WRC)
Rd.3 Rally México
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC 2023 Official Partners