Sébastien Loeb stormed into the lead of Rally Guanajuato Mexico after winning Saturday morning’s dramatic opening speed test.The nine-time world champion, driving in the WRC for the first time in more than three years, stopped the clocks 12.3sec faster than overnight leader Dani Sordo in the Guanajuatito special stage to move ahead by 5.1sec in a Citroën C3.
“I tried to have a good wake up because the rhythm you have in the first stage is important to me. I tried to push hard and had a good feeling in the car,” said Loeb, who finished hot on the heels of Ott Tänak’s limping Toyota Yaris.
“I saw his dust at the end but I didn’t slow down. I didn’t lose any time,” added Loeb.
The stage was a struggle for Sordo. “I wasn’t confident, the car was moving a lot and I also had brake problems. I didn’t drive very well and it’s not a stage I like, very narrow and slippery,” said the Hyundai i20 driver, who was fourth fastest.
Tänak, third overnight, limped through the final 10km, losing more than 2min 45sec with an engine problem. “I don’t know, it’s like we have 20hp,” said the Estonian, who retired on the following liaison section.
Third fastest Kris Meeke climbed to third place in his C3 and the Ulsterman held a 1.1sec advantage over a closing Sébastien Ogier, second quickest in his Ford Fiesta.
There were more problems for Thierry Neuville. The Belgian stopped for more than a minute early in the stage after his i20’s engine ingested water at a river crossing. After it finally fired up, an overshoot and a slow puncture near the finish added to his frustrations.
Despite losing two minutes in total, Neuville climbed to sixth due to Tänak’s demise.