Reigning WRC champion Sebastien Ogier says Rally Mexico still has plenty of punishment to give the new-generation cars, after universal overheating issues on the opening day of the Leon-based event. nly rally leader Kris Meeke escaped without any kind of heat-related trouble after a near-perfect, if shorter than expected, opener for the Citroen star.Elsewhere, the cars all suffered engine warnings not far into the El Chocolate stage.
The combination of those factors left the cars short on power and showing dangerously high temperatures.
Ogier’s M-Sport team is confident it has a fix ready for the weekend, but the Frenchman remained on his guard in second place.
Ogier told Motorsport.com on Friday: “More or less everybody had an engine temperature issue in the first stage. It was the same for us, we run most of the stage in ‘safe’ mode.
“I tried to be very soft on this section with the engine and not reach the critical point, but we ran with reduced power to save the engine.
“I can’t complain, to be second from second on the road is good. I am happy with the loop – I did all I could.
“What happened with the temperatures can happen with new cars when they are in a very hard situation.
“There’s nothing to worry about, the engine should be fine, but we need to find the solution because today the weather was not necessarily super-hot.
“Tomorrow [Saturday] there are places where this could be critical.”
“The average speed in the first section of the El Chocolate stage has a very low average speed and high altitude, and that’s the worst [case scenario],” he said.
“We’re all finding our feet here, we’ve all done our calculations, but until the first stage on gravel, we didn’t know anything.
“In that first stage, Seb got a warning in the car, but the other cars [Elfyn Evans and Ott Tanak] got alarms.
“A warning is just that, warning you of something, but an alarm means you are in the critical area for the temperature.
“There are things we can do, things we have in our tool kit. It’s not just mapping, we have started this rally looking to optimise aero over cooling was maybe not the right decision.”
No dramas for leading Meeke
At the front of the field, Meeke holds a 20.9-second advantage over Ogier. The Northern Irishman’s only drama came when he stalled in the second stage (SS5) on Friday.
He said: “Everything went very well today. We clearly had a good road position, but we had to make the most of it.
“I didn’t push too hard, because winning isn’t my main target for the weekend.
“My only regret was the minor mistake I made on SS5, which cost us about eight or nine seconds.
“But it’s good to be running well after a pretty tough start to the season! I’ll be looking keep up the same pace tomorrow.”