Esapekka Lappi put Hyundai on a fantastic performance on Friday to increase his lead over Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier in the Rally Mexico.
Esapekka Lappi, a factory Hyundai driver, took on and defeated six-time Rally Mexico champion Sebastien Ogier to take the lead by 5.3 seconds after 10 stages.
Throughout the course of Friday’s mostly gravel stages, Lappi and Ogier engaged in a spectacular duel, with Lappi taking five victories to Ogier’s two.
However, despite the fact that Lappi leads round three of the World Rally Championship going into Saturday’s third leg, works Toyota driver Ogier is still very much within reach following a day in which neither driver went all the way to the limit in order to avoid taking too many chances on the rock-strewn roads.
Early in the afternoon, Ogier was able to go within 0.3s of Lappi before the eight-time world champion was able to mount a brief comeback on the final stage.
Toyota’s Elfyn Evans finished the day in third place despite finishing 30.1 seconds behind Lappi and Ogier. Fourth place finisher Thierry Neuville of Hyundai finished the lap 9.7 seconds after Evans followed by world champion Kalle Rovanpera, who has been running second on the road throughout Friday’s stages.
Hyundai’s Dani Sordo dropped from fourth to sixth after suffering a puncture late in the day, and championship leader Ott Tanak entered Saturday outside of the points after overcoming a turbo failure on stage 3.
Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta and the M-Sport team’s Pierre-Louis Loubet and Jourdan Serderidis retired following accidents on the morning loop.
The El Chocolate (29.07km) test was run again in the afternoon, and unlike the morning, Tanak was able to complete the stage at full pace after his M-Sport team was able to remedy the turbo failure that had marred his morning run.
“It was quite a struggle in the car [clearing the road] and the issue came like instant,” the 2019 world champion said of his early turbo problem. “I didn’t feel anything going slowly before, it just switched off.”
“I hoped at least it was just a loose pipe but as I saw this wasn’t the case I knew it was quite s***.”
“I would say without hybrid support in places I knew it wouldn’t be possible, we were lucky to have some extra support, but we lost 12 minutes.”
More problems for M-Sport occurred during the team’s first visit to El Chocolate, as Tanak’s teammates Pierre-Louis Loubet and Jourdan Serderidis both parked their Pumas with the bust suspension, with Serderidis obstructing the road to the point where the stage had to be closed down for those following.
Takamoto Katsuta finished El Chocolate in the seventh-fastest time on his first Rally Mexico stage before passing Ortega in the sixth-fastest time. The Japanese Toyota driver, however, was only able to get 8.4 kilometers beyond Las Minas as he lost the rear of his Yaris in a fast sector and fell into retirement after charging down a bank.
Gus Greensmith sits ahead of Adrien Fourmaux by 8.5 seconds on his return to the WRC2 category in eighth place overall. Kajetan Kajetanowicz trails Emil Lindholm who ranks ninth taking the final podium spot in his class, while Olivier Solberg was held up by a spin and a flat tire.
Starting at 8:13 a.m. local time on Saturday, the first of the two passes of the 14.82-kilometer Ibarrilla stage will be up. The rally’s longest leg, covering 126.52 kilometers, consists of nine stages.