FIA World Rally ChampionshipOff Road

Ogier Retains Lead After Loeb Gearbox Dramas In Mexico

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Sebastien Ogier leads Rally Mexico on Saturday evening from Citroen teammate Sebastien Loeb, but only after the world champion suffered gearbox problems that caused him to be late to the start of the afternoon's opening stage.

Ogier carried a narrow 2.3 second lead over Loeb into the second day, but he would be forced to run first on the gravel roads throughout the day. Loeb took advantage of this to steal the lead on the day's opening stage, SS11 Ibarrilla. By midday service Loeb had extended his lead to 19.7s.

However, Loeb developed gearbox issues on his DS3 WRC on the road section before the second run through Ibarrilla. After carrying out repairs he arrived at the stage five minutes late. Although he beat Ogier by 6.2 seconds on the stage, he was handed a fifty second time penalty, dropping him 24.1s behind Ogier overall.

Loeb set about reducing that gap on SS16 Duarte 2, setting a time that was 13.7s quicker than Ogier, who reported a brief engine problem. Loeb was slightly slower than his rival on the last proper stage of the day though, leaving Ogier with a 11.3s lead with two runs of the Super Special remaining this evening.

Mikko Hirvonen remains in third for Ford, having been unable to keep up with the pace of the Citroens. Jari-Matti Latvala is fourth in the second factory Fiesta, despite suffering another puncture on the opening stage of the day. He took Ford's first stage win of the rally on SS17, the first for a non-Citroen driver in Mexico since Hirvonen won the penultimate test on the 2008 edition.

Petter Solberg recovered from his Day 1 engine problems to lie in fifth. The Norwegian privateer started the day down in 13th position, but won two stages in the morning loop to vault up to sixth by midday service. He then overhauled his brother Henning for fifth by winning SS15, as Henning struggled with power steering failure on his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta. Petter continued his charge by winning SS16 as well, but dropped time on SS17 after breaking his gear lever. He was also reported two minutes late into the stage, which is likely to give him a twenty second penalty.

Henning meanwhile continued with his broken power steering on SS16, dropping behind teammate and compatriot Mads Ostberg. It has been a tough day in general for the customer Fiesta runners. Ferm WRT driver Dennis Kuipers rolled his car out of seventh on SS15, while Evgeny Novikov's impressive return to the WRC ended with an oil leak on his M-Sport Stobart machine on the road section before SS13, taking him out of fifth position. Matthew Wilson failed to start the day after suffering further issues on his car, while Federico Villagra has suffered brake problems since restarting this morning.

It is perhaps Ken Block who has endured the toughest rally though. The American had already twice suffered electrical issues before the end of Day 1, before spinning on SS13 and arriving late for SS15 blaming heavy traffic. His day ended on SS16 though, when he broke the front suspension on his Monster Fiesta.

The leading S-WRC runners have benefited from the high attrition, with category leader Nasser Al Attiyah eighth overall. The Dakar winner's lead was made more comfortable when Ott Tanak crashed out of second on SS11. Martin Prokop moved up into second in class, with Juho Hanninen third, the IRC champion rounding out the overall top ten.

Overall positions after SS17:

1. Sebastien Ogier (Citroen) 3h09m36.4s

2. Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) + 11.3s

3. Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) + 1m28.1s

4. Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) + 2m41.4s

5. Petter Solberg (PSWRT) + 6m51.3s

6. Mads Ostberg (Stobart) + 8m05.7s

7. Henning Solberg (Stobart) + 8m38.6s

8. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Barwa) + 10m43.5s

9. Martin Prokop (Czech) + 11m20.3s

10.  Juho Hanninen (Red Bull Skoda) + 11m51.5s

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Peter joined the TCF team in September 2010 and covers GP2 and GP3 along with WTCC and Formula Two. You can find him on twitter at @PeteAllen_
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