Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle kept up their impressive form and (just about) held their nerve on the final day of Rally Mexico. Despite running off the road a few corners before the end of the Power Stage, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crew secured the C3 WRC’s maiden rally win!
The final day of the rally only featured two stages: La Calera (32.96km) and the Derramadero Power Stage (21.94km).
As the crews left the service park this morning, light rain had started to fall. This led to the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews making different calls when it came to tyre choice. Kris Meeke went with four soft and two hard Michelin LTX Force tyres, whilst Stéphane Lefebvre opted to go with six soft compound tyres.
On the penultimate speed test, Kris Meeke claimed his fifth stage win of the weekend. He extended his lead over Sébastien Ogier by another 6.3s, whilst Stéphane Lefebvre set an excellent third fastest time.
The team looked on nervously as the crews contested the Power Stage, broadcast live on television. And there was certainly no shortage of drama! With the finishing line almost in sight, the Northern Irishman’s Citroën C3 WRC ran wide on a long right-hand corner. The car ran through the hedge at the side of the road and into… a spectator car park!
Kris managed to keep his cool, get around the parked cars and back onto the road in a few seconds. He crossed the finishing line to secure victory by 13.8 seconds!
After something of an emotional roller-coaster ride during the final stage, there were scenes of joy and celebration in the team as Kris and Paul were welcomed as champions on their return to the León service park.
This is Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle’s fourth win in the WRC, following Argentina in 2015, and Portugal and Finland in 2016. It is also Citroën’s 97th win in the World Rally Championship.
Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“What happened in the Power Stage is almost beyond belief, even if this kind of thing has occurred before. At the time, there was some confusion as to what had happened; the onboard footage made it look like there had been a major off whereas the tracking system indicated that the car was still moving. When the car crossed the finishing line, we were absolutely thrilled and all the tension and drama just slipped away! This first win on gravel shows that the C3 WRC has some very solid foundations and that the Citroën Racing team did a good job during its development. We’ll now be able to work in a slightly more relaxed manner as we look to keep improving.”
“I think I might end up telling this story hundreds of times… I’m annoyed with myself for making that mistake. The car went wide after a big compression and we were very lucky. I quickly looked to get back on the road because I knew we could still win. That’s the main thing: we showed the potential of the Citroën C3 WRC in securing the car’s first win. I’m proud and delighted for the entire team, this result is for them.”
“We have picked up a lot of experience this weekend. Even today, being eleventh on the road meant I had the same grip as the leaders and I was able to get a feel for what the car can do in these conditions. Well done to Kris, Paul and the whole team; this win is a special moment for Citroën Racing.”