SS4: Meeke leads in Mexico
Kris Meeke took the lead of Rally Guanajuato Mexico as the new-era World Rally Cars finally tackled gravel road competition for the first time following Friday morning’s double stage cancellation.
Stage info: SS 4
El Chocolate 2, 54.90km
Friday’s opener marks the high point of the WRC season as cars top 2746 metres. It begins with a new 2km section before joining familiar territory. The roads are wide initially before narrowing as they climb through a sequence of hairpins on a bumpy surface. It becomes faster and wider with plenty of long, enticing corners, except for a tricky 3km section which demands care.
He was the only driver to enjoy a clear run through the marathon 54.90km El Chocolate. Although air temperatures were not high by Mexican standards, overheating engines were a concern for every other driver.
Meeke topped the times in his Citroën C3 by 7.3sec, the Ulsterman benefiting from cleaner roads after starting last of the headline drivers.
“No dramas,” he said. “I had a very clean road but in places near the start it was loose. Towards the end we benefited with what we had. I was clean everywhere and there were some boulders to drive around but I’m happy.”
His closest rival was Sébastien Ogier, whose Ford Fiesta carried slight rear left damage. “We had an engine alarm going off for most of the stage. It was overheating,” he explained.
He was far from alone as team-mates Ott Tänak and Elfyn Evans dropped 1min 18sec and 1min 36sec respectively. Tänak drove for 40km with his water temperature touching 120°C while Evans, who carries a five minute penalty after a post-shakedown engine change on Wednesday, also had an alarm sounding.
Hyundai team-mates Hayden Paddon, Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville filled the next three places in their i20 Coupes before a near-40sec gap to overnight leader Juho Hänninen, who completed the top six in a Toyota Yaris. All reported overheating engines.
Championship leader and road opener Jari-Matti Latvala dropped 1min 32sec after an even more problem-filled stage. “The engine is running far too hot, we had to run in road mode. The centre differential is too hot too and we had no proper brakes for half the stage. It will be a hard rally,” he said.
Lorenzo Bertelli stopped his Ford Fiesta for more than 20 minutes after 9.1km before finally completing the test after more than an hour!
Head to WRC+ to see the latest onboard and video reports from Rally Guanajuato Mexico.