WRC Rally Mexico 2018: Sebastien Loeb fights his way to the top
Sebastien Loeb wins two special stages at his WRC comeback in Mexico on Friday afternoon and tries his hand at Dani Sordo.
Hyundai driver Dani Sordo leads the Rally Mexico, third round of the 2018 World Rally Championship (WRC) after eight of 22 special stages, but Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) is now within striking distance of his former team mate. The nine-time WRC champion increased on his return after a break of more than three years on Friday afternoon, won two special stages and is only 7.9 seconds behind Sordo. Third is Ott Tänak (Toyota, +13.4 seconds).
“That was a good ride without mistakes, I pushed really hard. The car was good, the tyre choice was no problem. Nothing more is possible,”says Loeb after his strong performance. After winning the second round of the special stage “El Chocolate” he had to set himself the fastest time with Tänak at the eighth WP.
If he hadn’t missed a turnoff on the sixth stage, Loeb could even have led the rally. Regardless of his good starting position as the last of the WRC pilots, the Frenchman showed that he has not forgotten much in the three years of his absence.
Dani Sordo struggles with the choice of tyres
The overall leader Sordo started right in front of him and found similarly good conditions. But the Spaniard lost time this afternoon in hot conditions and blamed his choice of three soft and two hard tires on him,”We made a mistake with the tires,”Sordo says,”The traction is good, but we don’t have much grip on the side.”
Tänak advanced to third place in the afternoon, while Kris Meeke (Citroen) dropped back to fourth after two spins from second place overall. Fifth is reigning World Champion Sebastien Ogier (Ford) ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen (Hyundai), Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota) and Thierry Neuville (Hyundai).
At the front runner’s car, Hyundai mechanics were able to solve the engine problems during lunchtime service. An unusually high fuel consumption had led to a drop in fuel pressure on the Belgian’s i20 WRC this morning, causing Neuville to lose almost 30 seconds and drop from seventh to ninth place.
New problems for Thierry Neuville
“The engine is running smoothly, but I’m still pissed because we’ve lost so much time,” says Neuville. That would have been important for tomorrow because of the starting position, but now it looks more difficult:” Then, in addition to all the excess on the eighth special stage, the power steering of his car fell out, causing Neuville to lose even more seconds. He is almost two minutes behind Sordo.
Elfyn Evans (Ford) had to give up the rally during lunchtime service because his co-driver Daniel Barritt was taken to hospital after an accident in the morning on suspicion of a concussion. Evans had overturned several times during the fourth special stage, but was able to continue his ride for the time being.
The boys could repair the car, but because of Dan’s condition we can’t continue driving. We must not take any risks,”says M-Sport team boss Malcolm Wilson. Evans himself remained unharmed.
Evans, Suninen and Lappi retires
Evans was not the only M-Sport pilot who had to cancel the sails on Friday afternoon. In the second round of the King’s competition “El Chocolate”, Teemu Suninen crashed into a guardrail and was forced to give up. Shortly before, Esapekka Lappi (Toyota), another young Finn, had retired from the same special stage after a flight.
At the end of Friday at the Mexico Rally in the evening (local time) two more rounds of the 2.3-kilometre-long spectator stage “Autodromo de Leon” will be driven. On Saturday, the crews expect nine special stages over a total distance of 141.46 kilometres.
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