Once again, tyres played a crucial role in shaping of the results of a timed stage in World Rally Championship. On Mexican gravel, softer compound was apparently the better choice vs. the hard one, as Volkswagen Motorsport drivers learned by losing time to Citroën and Qatar crews on short qualifying stage.
Yet, even though results weren’t perfect and both Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala will start tomorrow’s first leg from the middle of the pack, spirits are high ahead of the first gravel event of the season, and also first proper competitive test of Polo R WRC on loose stuff.
Rally is very long and there are plenty of traps and hidden dangers, from marathon stages to surface which can be smooth and inviting only to turn into rocky, bumpy car breaker. Both Volkswagen drivers are aware of the risks, and they will have to make the most of the starting position and the spare set of softs.
Below are their reactions to the results of the qualifying stage.
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
“Obviously the soft tyres have produced the better times in qualifying, while we opted for the harder compound. At first glance, starting from seventh does not look ideal. However, we will have to wait and see how the rally pans out – it could ultimately be an advantage to have more hard tyres left. After all, the number of tyres is restricted to 28. Our priority remains to use our first gravel rally to close the gap on our rivals in terms of experience with the Polo. We can only do that if we complete the full distance. As there are a lot of stones and rocks lurking on the stages of the Rally Mexico, we concentrated hard on documenting these perils very precisely in our pace notes during our preparations. We feel well prepared and are looking forward to the spectacular start in Guanajuato’s old town.”
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“I am not happy with that qualifying. We had the disadvantage of having to open the stage. We took the safe choice with the hard tyre compound. What we didn’t expect was that there would be quite such a big difference between the hard and the soft. Qualifying is very important here at the Rally Mexico, in order to give yourself a good choice of starting position. We still have that. Our goal is to finish the rally and get a good result. Compared to our rivals, we will have an extra set of fresh tyres to use on the special stages.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“Both drivers performed well in qualifying and earned themselves decent positions when it comes to selecting the starting order. The Rally Mexico does not really get going until Friday morning, when the first long and notorious gravel stages are scheduled. We are well prepared for it and are looking forward to the many enthusiastic fans that line the special stages and cheer the teams on frenetically.”