Sébastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia have secured their first victory for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team with a record-equalling sixth Rally Mexico triumph: also the first win on the gruelling gravel event for the Toyota Yaris WRC.
The finish of the event was brought forward to Saturday evening, a decision taken in the face of fast-changing travel restrictions connected with the global COVID-19 virus outbreak to ensure safe and timely travel home for officials, competitors and team personnel.
In his third start with Toyota – and first on gravel – Ogier dominated proceedings after taking the lead on Friday’s second stage. He led by 13.2 seconds coming into Saturday, and immediately extended that advantage with a stunning stage win on SS13 Guanajuatito. His final winning margin was 27.8 seconds.
With his sixth Mexico win in eight years – behind the wheel of four different cars – Ogier moves into the lead of the championship ahead of team-mate Elfyn Evans, who finished a strong fourth with co-driver Scott Martin after running first on the loose gravel roads on Friday.
Kalle Rovanperä continued the impressive start to his top-flight WRC career in fifth place: the 19-year-old’s third top-five finish in as many rallies, together with Jonne Halttunen. Rovanperä was within a few seconds of a podium place coming into Saturday, but was disadvantaged by running early in the road order.
With its all-new driver line-up having taken two wins in its first three events, Toyota has further increased its lead in the manufacturers’ championship to 21 points.
Akio Toyoda (Team Chairman)
“We finally won Rally Mexico, in which we have faced some difficulties since we came back to the WRC. Congratulations and thank you, Sebastien and Julien!
The first two years in Mexico, we could not fight during the rally due to overheating. But our engineers have put a lot of effort into improve the cooling system and finally we reached the top of the podium. I also thank their fighting spirits for the Kaizen.
I heard the organizer and local people planned well and implement measures to hold this rally under safe conditions. I want to convey my appreciation to them for their work hard in helping the fans to enjoy the event. I also want to share my appreciation to the drivers for trying to entertain the fans as much as possible in such circumstances.
Although the next round, Rally Argentina, is postponed, I really hope the day that fans can watch the Yaris WRC back on the stages comes as soon as possible.”
Kaj Lindström (Sporting Director)
“We are very happy with this result. I’m very pleased first of all that Seb and Julien have taken their first victory with us, and also that the team has taken its first victory in Mexico. We struggled when we first came here in 2017, but we have been learning from our mistakes and now we have three cars in the top five. Elfyn did a great job first on the road to do a clean run, and Kalle has also done incredibly well on one of the most difficult rallies for a rookie. In these circumstances we do have some mixed feelings. It’s a shame to end the rally a day early, but with the situation in the world at the moment, we have to be sure we can get our team members home to their families.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“It’s been a good weekend. We had a good feeling straight from the start and we took our chance to take the lead on Friday morning. Today we had a better starting position and we pushed straight away and increased the gap, and then we tried to control it until the end. It’s a strange victory and it’s hard to celebrate in these circumstances. But thank you to the team, they’ve done a fantastic job this weekend. The car has been faultless all weekend. It’s been really reliable and fast, and these are good points for the championship.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It’s not been an easy weekend for us, but I felt like we drove pretty well. This morning I think we maximised everything we could, but with the road positions it didn’t work out. This afternoon we made a few little errors and we picked up some little issues along the way, so we weren’t able to challenge. So I’m a little bit disappointed in one way, but at the same time, fourth place after opening the road on the first day in Mexico is not so bad. All three Yaris WRCs are here at the finish, so it’s a testament to the team and the strength of the car.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“I’m quite happy overall. It was not the best weekend, but we had a few unlucky moments, and it was nice to see that when we tried to push, we had a good pace. It’s not so easy to have good speed on the first time here, so I can be happy. Today was mostly sweeping the road, and so we went for a safe pace just to keep our position while also learning about the road cleaning. It’s been a really good beginning to the season for me: It’s nice to have had clean rallies without any big mistakes and some proper pace sometimes.”