By Nick Garton
Sebastien Ogier took his first WRC win as a Toyota driver on this weekend’s truncated Rally Mexico, the third round of the 2020 season.
Six-time world champion Ogier delivered a commanding performance to join fellow French legend Sebastien Loeb as the only six-time winners of the event.
The finish arrived early on year’s Rally Mexico after the event was shorn of the three scheduled stages on Sunday morning in order to give teams and media time to beat the forthcoming travel shutdown in the USA and Europe.
In what transpired to be the final loop of the rally, Ogier maintained sufficient speed on each of the six special stages to take the win by a margin of 27.8 seconds from the Hyundai of 2019 world champion Ott Tanak.
“It's definitely a strange victory for me this weekend," said Ogier, who had expressed reservations ahead of the weekend about Rally Mexico proceeding at a time when most other motorsport has been placed on hold in light of the global coronavirus pandemic.
"I did not want to race basically and I've been convinced to do it and I've done my job, but for me protecting human life should go first and I hope we didn't bring any harm here to our friends in Mexico.
"I think we've done a good race, we've done two good days without any mistakes, pushed when we needed and tried to control the race now up to the end. Mexico remains a big challenge every time and it's still some good points for the championship today."
In a hard-fought battle for the runner-up position, Tanak overcame steely resistance from M-Sport driver Teemu Suninen, whose performance at the wheel of his Ford Fiesta WRC was one of the event’s highlights.
Behind these three podium finishers, the Toyotas of Britain’s Elfyn Evans and rising star Kalle Rovanpera finished in fourth and fifth respectively, after battling through today’s stages from less-than-favourable road positions.
Young British driver Gus Greensmith was the sixth WRC car home at the end of only his fifth outing in the sport’s top echelon for M-Sport, albeit behind three R5 cars.
The final classified finisher in the premier class was Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, who restarted under Rally 2 regulations after an electrical failure late on Friday.
After a convenient delay led to a more favourable road position for the majority of Saturday’s running, the Belgian duly won five of the remaining eight stages, ceding just three fastest times to teammate Tanak, but could only recover to 14th overall.
In WRC2, Sweden’s Pontus Tidemund just got his lone Skoda Fabia R5 across the line 2.97 seconds ahead of his closest rival, Hyundai’s Russian driver Nikolai Gryazin. WRC3 honours fell to Bolivia’s Marco Bulacia Wilkinson at the wheel of his Citroen C3 R5.
With the next round, Rally Argentina, postponed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the next scheduled event will be Rally Portugal in May unless the global health situation continues to impact the WRC calendar.
Ogier's victory puts him into the lead of the drivers' standings on 62 points, eight clear of Toyota teammate Evans and 20 ahead of Neuville.
Mexico WRC: Ogier seals victory on shortened rally