Ott Tanak, who is in first place in the FIA World Rally Championship, made a lot of people happy Thursday night when he set the fastest time on both passes of Mexico’s rally-opening street stage.
Since the first 12 cars did both runs of the 1.12km stage in the opposite order, Estonian Tanak enjoyed being the last one out of the Rally1 cars. On Friday morning, he will be in charge of clearing the road.
In his Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1, the 35-year-old finished the first round in 58 seconds flat, which was 0.8 seconds faster than the current world champion, Kalle Rovanpera. Then, less than half an hour later, he did it again, beating his Finnish rival and increasing his lead from the day before to 1.7 seconds.
“Today was a little bit of fun, but tomorrow is work,” the Estonian said at the end of the second run. He had already talked about how many fans showed up for the first stage. “When you get here, there are so many people that it feels like you’re driving through a tunnel of people.
“It’s different—they’re really, really passionate… It’s fun with all this help.”
Esapekka Lappi, who is in his first full season with Hyundai, finished third, 0.5 seconds behind Rovanpera. The two Finns had tied for first place on Thursday morning’s shakedown.
Thierry Neuville, who drives for the same team as Lappi, came in second. Sébastien Ogier, who won the last rally in Mexico, came in fifth in his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1.
Elfyn Evans, who was on Ogier’s team, came in sixth, just ahead of Dani Sordo by 0.1 seconds.
Pierre-Louis Loubet drove a Puma for the first time in Mexico, and Takamoto Katsuta drove a Yaris. At the end of the day, they were eighth and ninth, respectively.
Emil Lindholm had to wait a little longer to start his evening because he was not in the top 12, but by the end of the night, the defending WRC2 champion was in the top 10. Despite driving an older model Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, the Finn quickly raced to the top of the WRC2 leaderboard, 1.6 seconds ahead of Nikolay Gryazin in a similar car. Gus Greensmith, who was driving his first Skoda Fabia RS Rally2, rounds out the top three in WRC’s main support category.