Mikko Hirvonen sets qualifying pace

Mikko Hirvonen claimed the fastest time in today’s qualifying stage, enabling him to secure the ideal starting position for the first leg of Rally Mexico. Driven by Dani Sordo, the second DS3 WRC of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT finished in sixth position.

Before enjoying this evening’s traditional ceremonial start in the streets of Guanajuato, the competitors first had to tackle the qualifying stage. The 6.27km-long Llano Grande stage featured all of the difficulties thrown up by the rally as a whole, starting with a winding and technical section followed by a faster portion.

After setting the fastest time on the first run in free practice, Mikko Hirvonen went quickest again in qualifying: “I’m very pleased with this start, although it wasn’t essential to set the fastest time. I felt comfortable in the car and I drove perfectly. Everything went well and so we can choose the best starting position. The gravel seems to be a bit rougher than in previous years, so we’ll have to watch out for the large rocks which can cause punctures.”

Sixth in qualifying, Dani Sordo was less pleased with his morning’s work: “We worked hard with the team to improve the car with each run. Mikko drove really well… and clearly, I didn’t drive quite as well! But it’s not that bad, really. There’ll be plenty of cars in front of us to sweep the loose gravel. I’m expecting a difficult rally, with a lot of changes in pace. Sweeping will be a key factor on the first runs.”

Competing in the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT’s car, Chris Atkinson set the eighth fastest time: “I was fairly cautious this morning, because I found this stage particularly tricky. I’m very happy to be back with the Citroën Racing team and I hope I can gradually improve over the course of the weekend and secure a good result.”

Shortly after the qualifying stage was finished, the crews chose their starting positions for the first leg of the rally. Unsurprisingly, all the drivers opted to start as far down the running order as possible in order to complete the stages on a cleanly swept racing line. Mikko Hirvonen will start in 13th position, whereas Dani Sordo, Chris Atkinson and Benito Guerra will run in 8th, 6th and 3rd positions on the road respectively.

The rest of the day’s action will therefore take place in Guanajuato. As soon as they step off the starting podium, the crews will set off on SS1 (8.09pm local time) on the paved underground tunnels of the former mining city. A second short stage (8.47pm) – through the park celebrating the bicentenary of the country’s independence – will draw this evening’s ‘warm-up’ to a close.

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