Kris Meeke gave the troubled Citroen team a much needed boost as he ended a shortened day 2 of Rally Guanajuato Mexico with a commanding lead.
Meeke won both SS4 and SS7 to end the day with a 20 second lead over M-Sport’s Sébastien Ogier.
However, the competitors had to contend with a much shorter than planned day two after the cancellation of the opening loop of stages as the teams were unable to make the startline in time.
After the previous night’s two super special stages in the country’s capital of Mexico City, the teams had to drive the cars 400km back to the rally’s base in Leon.
Unfortunately, traffic problems due to an unrelated road accident while leaving Mexico City meant the cars were still around 300km away at the designated start time.
This left the rally organisers with no option but to cancel the first leg of stages.
The cars arrived in time to complete the second leg of stages and Meeke took full advantage.
Citroen and Meeke Finally Show Pace
Citroen and Meeke came into the season as favourites for the title, especially since the team took a sabbatical last year in order to fully develop the C3 WRC.
Despite all this preparation, the team, car and driver have flattered to deceive, made errors and looked unsorted.
Yet on the first stage of the day, the 55km El Chocolate stage Meeke took his first stage win in the C3 and with it the lead of the rally by 9.3 seconds.
Meeke was only fourth quickest on the next test after a stall but managed to extend his lead to 15 seconds over Ogier.
At the end of three spectator stages in the Leon Autodrome the Northern Irishman had extended it to a overnight 20.9 lead.
While admitting that he had the advantage of road position, Meeke stressed that he had made the most of it.
“Everything went very well today,” he said.
“We clearly had a good road position, but we had to make the most of it. I didn’t push too hard, because winning isn’t my main target for the weekend.
“But it’s good to be running well after a pretty tough start to the season! I’ll be looking keep up the same pace tomorrow.”
Behind him, Ogier was very happy with his performance considering he was second car on the road but was looking forward to his new road position on day three.
“It’s been a difficult day for more or less everyone but I think we managed it quite well and we can’t complain about being in second place and just 20 seconds off the lead tonight!,” he said.
“We’ll have a good position on the road tomorrow which hasn’t been the case for quite a long time on gravel, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Elfyn Evans in the Team DMACK was playing catchup due to his five minute penalty for an engine change but managed to show plenty of speed with three runner-up times and a win on the final stage of the day.
The Welshman has climbed up to 12th overall in the standings.
Hyundai’s Challenge Misfires
Hyundai had a difficult day as all three of its drivers suffered from engine misfires on the Leon Autodrome tests.
While Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon both lost half a minute but Dani Sordo was prevented from finishing the first Autodrome test and was retired for the day.
This was a disappointing finish for the team as both Neuville and Sordo were 20 seconds away from Meeke before the misfires took hold.
Despite this Neuville still ends the day in third place, just under a minute behind the leader.
Meanwhile championship leader Jari-Matti Latvala‘s pre-event apprehension that the event would be Toyota‘s worst round of the season seemed to hold true as he ended the day in eighth place two and a half minutes off the lead.
While running first on the road was partly to blame, the Toyota driver suffered from the same overheating worries that plagued most of the field.
Team-mate and overnight leader Juho Hanninen had a solid day, despite the overheating troubles shared by his team-mate.
The Finn ends the day in fourth place, 1 minute 27 seconds down on the leader.
WRC2: Tidemand Survives Camilli Attack
In WRC2 Skoda’s Pontus Tidemand was in control despite a determined charge by M-Sport driver Éric Camilli.
The Frenchman set a stunning time on the El Chocolate stage, 17.6 seconds quicker than any of his WRC2 competitors, but he was then slowed by as slowed by a variety of problems.
A damaged steering rack, broken rear left damper and brake issues left him unable to continue the charge, but he still held a 31.8 second gap over local hero Benito Guerra Jr in third.