Anton Andres / FIA WRC | March 13, 2017 16:18
Kris Meeke gives Citroen their first win of the season
After a roller-coaster 2016 campaign, Kris Meeke is starting the season right by winning this year's Rally Mexico. Meeke set the pace early on, dodging the bad luck that marred him last season. Meeke also gave Citroen their first win of the year and the first for the all-new C3 WRC race car.
This year's running of the Rally Mexico had two bizarre turn of events that made the rally packed with action. On the first day, SS2 and SS3 were canceled due to the transporters getting stuck on the highway following an accident. Organizers were forced to reset the rally in the late afternoon. When the rally continued, Meeke set the pace early on with Sebastien Ogier in hot pursuit. He was, however, forced to slow down when his Fiesta started to heat up under the hood.
Hyundai's Hayden Paddon finished the first day in third place despite suffering from a misfiring engine due to the desert heat. His team mates were not as lucky, dropping out of the top five on day one. Finishing the day in fourth was Toyota's Juho Hanninen who had to keep a close eye on his temperature gauge. It wasn't just his car that was threatening to overheat, Hanninen nearly collapsed after driving a day in the desert heat.
On the second day, temperatures were slightly lower but still challenging nonetheless. Meeke continued his strong performance as the rest of the field struggled to catch up to the Irishman. Ogier was running neck and neck with Meeke until he spun out and lost almost 20 seconds in process. Paddon hit a rock, suffered a puncture and struggled with his set up on the second day. Taking third by the end of the day was Neuville and did his best to catch up to Ogier. The latter then made time to drive away from the Hyundai driver.
Ott Tanak displaced Hanninen from fourth place, who was still struggling with exhaustion from the day before. Despite the incidents, Paddon recovered to fifth place, wrestling with the ill-handling car throuhout the day. Jari-Matti Latvala later demoted his team mate to seventh place after a mostly incident-free drive.
With luck on his side, Meeke nearly lost it all on the last day. On the final stage of day three, the rally leader approached the last sharp corner at speed and plowed through trees. Fortunately, the trees were small and Meeke ended up on to the spectator's parking area. He later drove out of the parking area but suffered a puncture in the process. He limped his Citroen to the finish on just three tires.
Ogier, Meeke's closest rival during the rally, was attacking the stage hard but it was not enough to take the win from Citroen. Neuville was cautious on the last day, not wanting to risk losing third overall. In fourth meanwhile was Ott Tanak, putting two Fords in the top five. Paddon rounds up the top five despite the struggles of the past two days.
Meeke's win puts him up to sixth in the points while Ogier's second place finish brings him to the top of the standings again. Latvala's sixth place finish lets him cling on to second overall in the championship. Ott Tanak stays firmly in third in the standings.