Ogier’s strangest win
He secured a sixth Rally Mexico victory to equal Sébastien Loeb’s record on the event, but Ogier took little pleasure from it – even though it also marked his first in a Toyota and launched him to the top of the WRC points standings.
Eyebrows were raised when the rally kicked off on Thursday evening, in the wake of the mass sporting cull, which of course included the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. If Formula 1 was guilty of making a bit of a mess of how it handled the crisis – anyone really surprised at that? – at least all concerned came to the right decision eventually. When the world is on such high alert over the spread of COVID-19 and the devastating effects it might have on the most vulnerable, was it really appropriate for the WRC and the Mexican organisers to carry on regardless?
As it turned out, time was called early on the rally in the face of the travel shutdown being rolled out across the US and Europe. The three stages planned for Sunday were cancelled and the curtain came down on Saturday evening.
Ogier had led from the second stage on Friday and turned in a comfortable victory. The six-time champion finished 27.8 seconds ahead of the reigning champion, Hyundai’s Ott Tänak. The Estonian finished just short of 10 seconds ahead of M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen. If anyone was the star of such an event held in such strange circumstances, it was surely the 26-year-old Finn, who scored the second WRC podium of his career.
Britain’s Elfyn Evans arrived in Mexico at the head of the WRC points standings and was thus disadvantaged by his early starting position on the road. Fourth place, ahead of fellow rising Toyota ace Kalle Rovanperä, was a decent return in the circumstances and leaves him just eight points shy of Ogier, but 12 up on Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, who could only finish in 16th overall after an electrical failure on Friday.
Exactly when Evans and Neuville will get their first chance to make up the lost ground is anyone’s guess, of course. As it stands, the next WRC round in Argentina has already been postponed, while the following rally in Portugal during May could well be lost too. After that it’s Rally Sardinia, but given the plight of Italy right now that surely looks unlikely to run.