Loeb wraps up another Mexico win

Autosport

Sebastien Loeb stretched his World Rally Championship lead by clinching a sixth consecutive Rally Mexico victory.

The Frenchman led team-mate Mikko Hirvonen in Citroen's first one-two of the year, having taken the lead from the Finn mid-way through leg one and then pulled away thereafter.

Loeb's win was made all the more valuable by title rival Jari-Matti Latvala's litany of disasters. Ford had struggled on this event for years, but Latvala found enough pace to lead the Citroens on Friday morning, only to then break his suspension and drop to eighth.

A string of stage wins helped him recover to third, despite another impact with a rock causing a puncture delay along the way, only for Latvala to then drop seven minutes when he rolled on stage 22 of 24 this morning. He continued, but was stopped by officials before the next stage due to rollcage damage. The Finn said he had been wrong-footed when trying to ensure he avoided the crashed M-Sport Ford of Evgeny Novikov.

That allowed Petter Solberg back up to third in the second factory Ford. The Norwegian had started well with fastest times on Thursday's qualifying stage and opening street stage, only for two Friday morning punctures to leave him playing catch-up thereafter. Solberg did at least manage to deny Loeb the power stage win.

Mads Ostberg held third for Adapta Motorsport after the works Fords' problems, but did not have the pace to resist their recovery drives. He escaped a late puncture to finish fourth, ahead of Ott Tanak, who delivered his best World Rally Car performance yet. Tanak had the measure of M-Sport team-mate Novikov even before the Russian's first of two crashes, and was not flustered by a Saturday puncture.

Nasser Al-Attiyah took an impressive sixth in only his second event in the Qatar Citroen, ahead of Armindo Araujo's Portugal Mini, Sebastien Ogier's Volkswagen Motorsport S2000 Skoda, Ken Block's Monster Ford and local Ford driver Ricardo Trivino.

Block's team-mate Chris Atkinson was running eighth on his WRC return until a brake problem caused him to crash on Saturday. The Australian rejoined under Rally 2 but broken suspension forced him to stop again on SS22.

Thierry Neuville starred early on by running fourth for Citroen Junior in his first World Rally Car outing on gravel, before going off the road. After rejoining for Saturday, the Belgian took his first WRC stage win on one of the superspecials.

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