Frenetic fans, World Heritage Site setting and big rally partyThree spectator stages get the Rally Mexico underwayOgier/Ingrassia take the lead, Latvala/Anttila in third, Mikkelsen/Jæger in fourth
Fireworks and full throttle celebration in Guanajuato: Volkswagen experienced an emotional start to the Rally Mexico in front of thousands of celebrating fans. In the silver mine city of Guanajuato, which is a World Heritage Site, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N) in the Polo R WRC were the highlights of the night of rally nights. On the two spectator stages – the world-famous "Street Stage Guanajuato" and the special stage completed twice at the Autodromo just outside Léon –Ogier/Ingrassia pushed Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B, Hyundai) and their Volkswagen team-mates Latvala/Anttila and Mikkelsen/Jæger into positions two to four.
The first real challenge comes on Friday morning with the classic stage "El Chocolate". Here, after a long ascent of 45.6 kilometres, the World Rally Cars reach the "roof" of the WRC at 2746 metres above sea level - a real test for man and machine.
Quotes, day 01 Mexico
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1"Being able to hear the fans in the car during a special stage - you only get that at the start of the Rally Mexico. The spectators in Guanajuato are incredible. It is definitely one of the best spectator stages in the WRC and we tried to give something back to the fans with a real show. But one thing is clear: the real start isn't until Friday when we take on the long 'El Chocolate' stage."
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2"The start of the Rally Mexico lived up to its reputation as the best opening ceremony on the calendar once again. There are more people every year and the atmosphere is unique. I'm happy with the times. The priority on the short spectator stages such as the three today is not to make any major errors – but also not to lose too much time. We did well today. The 'El Chocolate' stage on Friday is of a totally different calibre. You have to be wide-awake right from the start."
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9"The fans in Mexico are something special. They cheer us drivers and co-drivers on fairly and at high volume, they are all positive and hospitable – it really lifts your spirits coming to the Rally Mexico. In this respect, naturally the highlight is the ceremonial start in Guanajuato with its unique atmosphere. The first three special stages aren't really an indicator of how the rally will go. Overall I am satisfied with the start, even though I didn't find the exact line in places."
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director"An atmosphere like that in a football stadium, the fabulous backdrop of Guanajuato and precise driving skills of the drivers - the opener of the Rally Mexico is unparalleled on the WRC calendar and everything was in order once again this evening. Kudos to the organisers, who did a fantastic job. Volkswagen got off to a good start - however, the Rally Mexico only really gets going on Friday. The highest point of the WRC season at more than 2700 metres above sea level and a 54-kilometre stage first thing in the morning - that is a real challenge that we are looking forward to taking on. After this emotional start today, the drivers are extremely motivated."
And then there was ...
... a cake. It was presented to Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia by the Volkswagen team to celebrate their 100th start in the World Rally Championship. And even though Motorsport Director Jost Capito made reference to the perfect size of the cake that would easily have had room for two faces next to each other, the dessert didn't end up there. Instead, it was shared out among all of the team members and quickly devoured. Incidentally, there won't be another cake for this occasion in the Volkswagen rally team before the seventh event of the season in 2018, when Andreas Mikkelsen could celebrate his 100th WRC start.
Provisional result after day one of the Rally Mexico
01. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, 4m 16.5s02. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 1.7s03. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 3.3s04. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, + 3.8s05. Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai, + 4.1s06. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 4.6s07. Lorenzo Bertelli/Simone Scattolin (I/I), Ford, + 5.7s08. Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ), Citroën, + 5.8s09. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 5.9s10. Benito Guerra/Borja Rozada (MEX/E), Ford, + 6.0s