Sébastien Ogier added another record to his already impressive tally with victory at Guanajuato Rally México on Sunday afternoon.
The Frenchman, starting the second rally of his part-time 2023 campaign, moved to top of the Mexico roll of honour with a record seventh victory at the North American event, an accolade he had previously shared with old foe Sébastien Loeb.
With a sizeable 35.8sec advantage going into the final leg, it was a relatively straightforward Sunday for the Toyota Gazoo Racing man.
He negotiated the remaining four speed tests with ultimate prowess and collected maximum bonus points from the Wolf Power Stage, finishing 27.5sec clear of Thierry Neuville at the event where he made his FIA World Rally Championship debut in 2008.
“The car was great this weekend and it was a faultless rally for us and the team,” said Ogier, who now leads the drivers’ championship by three points from Neuville.
“As I am doing the next rally, it’s important to start first on the road there and it was important to get the points for the team as well,” he added, referencing the Croatia Rally.
Neuville’s stubborn spirit behind the wheel of his Hyundai i20 N left fans on the edge of their seats as he battled relentlessly with Ogier’s team-mate Elfyn Evans. Having started the day 5.3sec in arrears, Neuville closed in on the Welshman, who was impeded by a bent suspension arm.
The Belgian’s perseverance paid off as he overtook his rival in the finale, claiming second overall by just four-tenths of a second and providing an exhilarating end to the four-day fixture.
Kalle Rovanperä struggled to match the pace of the frontrunning trio and settled for a lonely fourth overall in his Toyota. The defending champion continued to pull further away from Hyundai’s Dani Sordo, who finished over one minute further back in fifth.
The rough gravel terrain took its toll on several of the leading Rally1 crews, enabling Gus Greensmith to finish a mighty sixth overall in his WRC2-specification Škoda Fabia RS Rally2. Behind him were fellow support category challengers Emil Lindholm and Oliver Solberg.
Ninth overall was the best Ott Tänak could manage after turbocharger failure cost the M-Sport Ford Puma driver more than 14 minutes on Friday morning, while WRC2 star Kajetan Kajetanowicz completed the top 10.
The WRC is back on asphalt for next month’s Croatia Rally, which takes place from 20 – 23 April. The event is based in capital city Zagreb.
1. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris 3hr 16min 9.4sec
2. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +27.5sec
3. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +27.9sec
4. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +1min 55.3sec
5. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +2min 58.8sec
6: G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Škoda Fabia +12min 31.5sec
Drivers’ Championship points (after round 3 of 13):
1. S Ogier 56pts
2. T Neuville 53pts
3. K Rovanperä 52pts