Eight-time FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier made history by becoming the first driver to win Rally Guanajuato México seven times. The Frenchman managed his pace to perfection over the closing stages, stayed clear of any undue risks and reached the finish in León with a winning margin of 27.5 seconds on Sunday.
The success with co-driver Vincent Landais in a Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 was only the second for the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team on this event and a career 57th WRC success for Ogier since he made his championship debut as a Junior driver in México back in 2008. It also gave Landais a second WRC win and Ogier a three-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship.
Ogier said: “The car was great this weekend, a faultless weekend for us. It was important to get points there. Elfyn (Evans) was really unlucky that he had to finish the rally with a damaged car. Still, it was a strong weekend for the team. Today this win is for our team and for a friend who I lost not long ago.”
Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville were the centre of attention for much of Saturday afternoon and the final morning, as the Welshman and the Belgian traded time in the fight for second overall. Hyundai’s Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe gained time on the short opening stage in a quarry, only for Evans and Scott Martin to hit back in their Toyota Yaris on the longer Otates stage.
The trading of blows continued through the San Diego speed test and the outcome was decided on the final Wolf Power Stage after Evans admitted that he had bent a suspension arm earlier in the morning and had been nursing the Toyota. Neuville finished third on the final Power Stage and that was enough to beat Evans to second place by just 0.4 seconds!
World Champion Kalle Rovanperä spent most of the event in a form of no-man’s land, too far behind the leading trio to mount a challenge because of an unfavorable road position, and safely in front of the drivers running behind. The Finn and co-driver Jonne Halttunen eventually finished fourth overall and collected two additional Power Stage points. Kalle holds third in the Drivers’ Championship.
Likewise, Hyundai’s Dani Sordo and co-driver Candido Carrera were never in a position to challenge for the podium, although the Spaniards claimed one stage win on their way to fifth place.
With Ott Tänak, Pierre-Louis Loubet and Takamoto Katsuta out of contention for a top finish early in the event in their Rally1 machines, that opened the door for Gus Greensmith and Jonas Andersson to finish in an excellent sixth overall and first in WRC2 in their new Škoda Fabia RS. The Briton appeared far more relaxed in the WRC’s second division and delivered a polished performance to win the category by 32.9 seconds on his first WRC appearance of the season.
Greensmith said: “From stage six the whole rally was under control for me. When we needed to go faster, we could and we didn’t put a foot wrong. We didn’t have much time to get used to this new car and it’s a perfect start to the year.”
When Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux was forced to stop on the Otates stage to change an alternator belt on his M Sport Ford WRT-entered Fiesta, that paved the way for the defending WRC2 champion Toksport WRT2’s Emil Lindholm to storm through and snatch second in WRC2 on his first visit to México.
Oliver Solberg had dropped back with a puncture earlier in the rally and was mounting a late charge for second until he ran wide and lost time in San Diego and finished the event with a down-on-power engine. The young Swede claimed points for fourth to lead the championship, with Poland’s Kajetan Kajetanowicz finishing fifth on his first rally of the season in a Škoda Fabia Evo, also claiming the WRC2 Challenger class win.
Despite complaining all weekend that he could not adapt to driving the Ford Puma Rally 1 with confidence on gravel, WRC series leader Tänak battled back from his third stage turbo woes and overtook Kajetanowicz to snatch ninth overall and four valuable points on the Power Stage. He slipped to fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, nine points behind Ogier.
Paraguay’s Diego Dominguez (Ford Fiesta) claimed maximum WRC3 points after a solid drive and Canadian veteran Jason Bailey (Ford Fiesta) finished second and also won the WRC Masters Cup.
México’s Carlos Salas finished 12th overall and was the leading finisher in the FIA NACAM Rally Championship in his Škoda Fabia.
2023 Rally Guanajuato México – Unofficial classification after SS23:
|1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Vincent Landais (FRA) Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||3hr 16min 09.4sec|
|2. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL) Hyundai i20 N Rally1||3hr 16min 36.9sec|
|3. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Scott Martin (GBR) Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||3hr 16min 37.3sec|
|4. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN)/Jonne Halttunen (FIN) Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||3hr 18min 04.7sec|
|5. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Candido Carrera (ESP) Hyundai i20 N Rally1||3hr 19min 08.2sec|
|6. Gus Greensmith (GBR)/Jonas Andersson (SWE) Škoda Fabia RS||3hr 28min 40.9sec|
|7. Emil Lindholm (FIN)/Reeta Hämäläinen (FIN) Škoda Fabia Evo||3hr 29min 13.8sec|
|8. Oliver Solberg (SWE)/Elliott Edmondson (GBR) Škoda Fabia RS||3hr 29min 47.1sec|
|9. Ott Tänak (EST)/Martin Järveoja (EST) Ford Puma Rally1||3hr 31min 29.0sec|
|10. Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL)/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL) Škoda Fabia Evo||3hr 32min 06.0sec|