Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle took a dramatic first win of the season at Rally Mexico, bringing a third different winning crew, and manufacturer, to the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship in as many events.
However, after a faultless rally, in which they led for all but the two Mexico City stages, it was far from a relaxing ride to the finish. The Citroën C3 WRC pairing went into the closing live TV Power Stage with what looked like an unassailable 37.2 second advantage but, with the finish line in sight, incredibly the pair went off the road. Losing precious time trying to get back on to the stage from a parking area, they astonishingly reached the finish line 13.8 seconds ahead of their rivals in one of the most dramatic finishes in recent times.
“I got caught out on a bump after the jump,” said a shell-shocked Meeke. “I’m a lucky, lucky boy. That’s certainly one way to finish a rally!”
The Mexico win marks Meeke and Nagle’s fourth WRC victory, but it was an important first win for the new Citroën C3 WRC which showed so much pre-season promise and had yet to truly deliver. In Meeke’s hands this weekend, however, the multiple Championship-winning Citroën team proved it is back in the fight.
Second position was taken by the M-Sport crew of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. The French duo were happy to maintain position for the sake of solid Championship points and their result sees them back at the top of the Drivers’ standings three events into the season. Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul finally got some decent points on the board for third overall and the Belgian duo also picked up an additional five points for winning the Power Stage.
Ott Tänak finished just off the podium in fourth for the first time this season and Hayden Paddon was fifth. After their overheating problems on Friday, Toyota as good as achieved its pre-event expectations with Jari-Matti Latvala in sixth, his team-mate Juho Hänninen seventh after battling against illness all weekend. Misfire problems dropped Dani Sordo down the order on Friday night, but the Spaniard reached the finish in eighth. Elfyn Evans was ninth, his event compromised from the outset when he picked up a five minute penalty for a pre-start engine change.
The fight in the FIA WRC 2 Championship was intense between Pontus Tidemand and Eric Camilli. The Swede went into the day with two seconds in hand to the Frenchman, but two stage wins assured Tidemand and co-driver Jonas Andersson a second consecutive category win.
In the FIA World Rally Championship, Ogier has an eight point advantage over Latvala with Tänak third a further 10 points adrift. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, M-Sport’s haul of podium places over the first three events sees it head the standings by 36 points over newcomers Toyota GAZOO Racing. Hyundai Motorsport is however only two points behind the Japanese manufacturer.
The FIA World Rally Championship contenders now return to Europe for the first pure asphalt rally of the season, Rallye de France Tour de Corse (6-9 April).
Rally Mexico – Official Final Classification (subject to further checks to be carried out by the FIA on the gearbox of car No. 1, Ogier/Ingrassia)
|1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle||Citroën C3 WRC||3hr 22min 04.6sec|
|2. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia||Ford Fiesta WRC||3hr 22min 18.4sec|
|3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||3hr 23min 04.3sec|
|4. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja||Ford Fiesta WRC||3hr 24min 22.9sec|
|5. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||3hr 25min 37.5sec|
|6. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila||Toyota Yaris WRC||3hr 26min 44.9sec|
|7. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindström||Toyota Yaris WRC||3hr 27min 10.8sec|
|8. Dani Sordo / Marc Martí||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||3hr 27min 27.3sec|
|9. Eflyn Evans / Daniel Barritt||Ford Fiesta WRC||3hr 30min 46.4sec|
|10. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson||Škoda Fabia R5||3hr 32min 56.5sec|
eom/FIA press release