Kris Meeke has won Rally Mexico. He was so close of losing it right in the end, but got away with only a scare. The entire Citroen team must be celebrating this victory through the night. Sebastien Ogier was second and Thierry Neuville third.
On Thursday and Friday
Rally Mexico began on Thursday with two street stages. Toyota’s Juho Hänninen won the first one with a margin large enough to keep him in the lead even though Sebastien Ogier won the second stage. After Thursday everyone were close to each other and quite surprisingly, all four different manufacturers were in the top four. Hänninen held top spot 1.6 seconds ahead of M-Sport’s Ott Tänak and Citroen’s Kris Meeke. On fourth place was Thierry Neuville and Hyundai.
Friday began with some problems considering the organisers. Stages 2 and 3 had to be cancelled as some of the cars hadn’t arrived to the start on time. This was because of traffic accident on the road to the stages. When the cars finally got to drive, it was Citroen’s Kris Meeke who was able to handle the hot weather. On stage 4 virtually every car with the exception of Meeke suffered from overheating. Meeke was on the loose with only Sebastien Ogier threatening him under 10 seconds behind.
Rally Sweden’s winner Jari-Matti Latvala destroyed any chance of winning as he lost over 90 seconds doe to overheating. It seems the transition from cold Sweden to hot Mexico hasn’t been the smoothest. Friday ended with super special stage 8, which was surprisingly won by Elfyn Evans. The M-Sport driver was however over 6 minutes behind the leader Meeke, so his prosperity was shallow. Meeke managed to set himself up nicely for Saturday as he ended up leading second-placed Ogier by 20 seconds. Thierry Neuville was on third place but almost a minute behind Meeke.
From the start, Saturday was Meeke’s feast. He only managed to win one stage, stage 13, but on five other stages he was in the top four. The last stages didn’t go so well for the Brit, but he was still able to end the day having augmented his lead to Ogier from 20 to 30 seconds.
Saturday also saw a sort of a comeback from Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn had fallen far behind on Friday. He began the day on ninth eight place, two and a half minutes behind Meeke and slightly over a minute behind his teammate Hänninen on fourth. The two Toyota drivers fought throughout the day behind the top five. Late in the day, Latvala even managed to bring the Toyota colors close to the top with two second place. This late push brought Latvala just ahead of his teammate to sixth place. The two Finns ended Saturday with 0.3 second between themselves, approx. 4 minutes and 30 seconds behind Meeke in the lead.
Sunday hosted only two stages: SS18 La Calera and SS19 Derramadero. The summed up length of these two is just over 50 kilometers. Kris Meeke was determined to keep his first place and bring Citroen its first win and first podium of the season. He blasted through the first stage beating everybody and increasing his lead over Ogier on second. Meeke left for the powerstage in a 37.2 second lead. At this point, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville was third 45 seconds behind Ogier.
On the powerstage that closed the Rally Guanajuato Mexico Thierry Neuville had the best pace. He just edged ahead of Sebastien Ogier with 0.3 second between them. This meant their battle had finished but there was still excitement. Kris Meeke started the stage knowing he had to be reasonable, not to take any risks and the win was his. This was exactly what the Brit did, until the final hundred meters. Meeke drove off right before the finish, but luckily for him he avoided any hits and got back on the road. After the drama, Meeke finished on seventh place, over 20 seconds behind Ogier and Neuville. In the end. Citroen and Meeke got their first win of the season with 13.8 seconds to second-placed Ogier and 59.7 seconds to Thierry Neuville on third.
The Top 5 of Rally Mexico 2017:
- Kris Meeke; Citroen; 3h22m04.6s
- Sebastien Ogier; M-Sport; +13.8s
- Thierry Neuville; Hyundai; +59.7s
- Ott Tänak; M-Sport; +2m18.3s
- Hayden Paddon; Hyundai; +3m32.9s