Sebastien Ogier’s stunning stage 16 win that helped create a commanding lead at Rally Mexico was “something unique”, according to Toyota World Rally Championship boss Jari-Matti Latvala.
Ogier will head into the gravel event’s final day equipped with a 35.8s advantage over Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans, as the eight-time world champion goes in search of a record seventh WRC win in Mexico.
Ogier moved into the lead after Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi crashed out on stage 11, but it was Ogier’s performance on stage 16 that blew away the opposition.
The Frenchman managed to win the El Mosquito test by a whopping 8.1s from Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, a performance that surprised Ogier and his team boss Latvala.
“When I saw the time that he was more than eight seconds faster than anybody else, I said ‘woah that is something’ because these days you don’t see gaps like that in normal conditions,” said Latvala, a WRC winner in Mexico in 2016.
“That was something unique. But he loves this rally, he is the master of this rally, he knows how to attack with clean driving and not be too aggressive.”
Sébastien Ogier, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Photo by: Toyota Racing
While Ogier declared himself happy with his Saturday display, the WRC part-timer says he cannot afford to relax ahead of Sunday’s leg, which includes the event’s longest stage at 35.63km.
“I think this lead is good and I’m happy with my day,” said Ogier.
“It has been a bit of a different approach as Esapekka went off this morning it changed our race as we didn’t need to go for too much risk.
“We still managed to set some good times and increase our lead as you never know what will happen as Sunday is long, which means we cannot afford to relax.”
Toyota is likely to face a battle to maintain a 1-2 in the rally standings with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville only 4.3s behind second-placed Evans.
Rovanpera driving with championship in mind
Kalle Rovanperä, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Photo by: Toyota Racing
While Ogier and Evans have led Toyota’s charge, world champion Kalle Rovanpera has been unable to fight for the podium positions in Mexico.
The Finn was hampered by road position on Friday which resulted in a compromised tyre strategy for Saturday, having elected to run softs to limit the damage of opening the road.
As a result, Rovanpera heads into Sunday 53.9s adrift of the final podium spot in a lonely fourth position.
Latvala believes the 22-year-old has however been driving clever with one eye already on the championship.
“He has been suffering with the road position and I guess he realised that he lost so much that he didn’t want to start taking risks after that,” said Latvala.
“You can see now that he is just thinking about the championship and driving clever. I think he will attack on…
Read More: Latvala hails “unique” Ogier WRC Rally Mexico performance 2023-03-19 11:49:59