BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team climbed the leaderboard during today's second leg of Rally Mexico to put itself on course for a valuable points finish in this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.  Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila lie fourth in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car with team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen in fifth, although both pairings were disappointed not to climb further on the longest leg of this three-day event.

Ford's Finns experienced a tough opening day yesterday when both were early starters and played the role of unwilling road sweepers to create a clear driving line through the loose gravel.  Both enjoyed a better start position today and had the benefit of cleaner roads, as the drivers ahead swept the stones from the dirt surface to leave a faster line.  Although Hirvonen and Latvala were second and third fastest on today's leg, they did not regain as much time on those ahead as they hoped.    

Overcast skies greeted competitors as they departed the rally base in León, 400km north-west of Mexico City, early this morning and while the sun appeared sporadically, temperatures were significantly cooler than pre-event.  The day comprised two identical loops of three long gravel speed tests north and east of the city.  As yesterday, the morning loop ended with a short asphalt special stage close to the service park and the afternoon closed with two head-to-head duels at the race circuit on the edge of the city.  The nine tests covered 158.82km.  

Latvala was fifth after the first day and the 24-year-old Finn climbed to fourth on the opening stage.  He dropped around 15 seconds after stalling and puncturing a tyre and ended the morning frustrated at not having regained more time on his rivals.  Latvala decided to stiffen the suspension settings on his Focus RS WRC and the impact was immediate.  He was second fastest on the next two stages and an error free afternoon ensured he returned to León happier with his performance.

"It was a much better afternoon than morning," said Latvala.  "I think our set-up was too soft and I felt more confident throughout the afternoon's stages.  I tried to drive more aggressively after lunch and my times were better but I'm still frustrated.  I struggled in fast uphill sections and in long, slow bends.

"I dropped a few seconds this morning when the car stalled and then I punctured the front right tyre on the same stage.  It was a slow puncture so I could continue to the finish but I lost about 15 seconds.  This morning it seemed that the harder I pushed, the more the car slid wide in the corners and the more time I lost.  The changes I made at lunchtime were a big step in the right direction," he added.

Championship leader Hirvonen also climbed a place in the opening stage with second fastest time.  Despite also puncturing a tyre, he closed the overnight 30.2sec margin from Latvala to 10.3sec after the morning loop.  He, too, stiffened his car's suspension and set three top three times this afternoon, despite feeling unwell, to end the day 16.0sec behind his team-mate and fellow countryman.

"This morning was better than yesterday, and this afternoon was better than this morning, but I still don't have a perfect feeling with the car," said Hirvonen.  "I gained time with my road position, but not enough.  I changed the damper settings on the car after the first stage to improve the feeling but then the rear left tyre punctured on the next stage.  It was a twisty test so I was able to continue without changing the tyre, but I drove for 15km like that. 

"After hardening the suspension at lunchtime the car felt much better in the bumpy sections and that gave me more confidence.  I've felt quite unwell this afternoon in my stomach.  It made no difference on the stages because the adrenaline kicked in, but I felt weaker and weaker on the road sections as the afternoon went on," he added.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson admitted that the team's target was now to maximise its manufacturers' championship points haul.  "We lost too much time yesterday which we were unable to regain today.  Our pace improved, but not by enough, so now we need to ensure we can bring both cars home in good points-scoring positions," he said.

News from other Ford teams

Stobart M-Sport Ford drivers Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor are sixth in their Focus RS WRC.  Despite brake problems in the opening stage of each loop, the Norwegian driver posted a second and three third fastest times to lie 25.3sec behind Hirvonen.  Munchi's Ford duo Federico Villagra and Jorge Perez Companc climbed to seventh in their Focus RS WRC.  Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin retired on the day's opening stage when they went off the road on a left bend 2km before the end of the stage and became stuck on rocks.  Monster World Rally Team's Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino also went out on the opening test when they braked late into a corner and their Focus RS WRC slid into a ditch, breaking the front left suspension.

Tomorrow’s Route

The final leg comprises just three stages after the pre-event cancellation of the day's second test, the 7.05km Sauz Seco, for safety reasons.  Drivers restart at 07.45 and after two stages in the hills north and east of León, they face a final pass over the super special stage at the city's race circuit.  Competitors return to León for the finish ceremony at 13.00 after a further 51.49km.

Leaderboard after Day 2
1.  S Loeb/D Elena                      FRA             Citroen C4              3hr 08min 49.6sec
2.  P Solberg/P Mills                   NOR             Citroen C4              3hr 09min 45.1sec
3.  S Ogier/J Ingrassia                 FRA             Citroen C4              3hr 09min 47.8sec
4.  J-M Latvala/M Anttila               FIN             Ford Focus RS   3hr 10min 33.5sec
5.  M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen               FIN             Ford Focus RS   3hr 10min 49.5sec
6.  H Solberg/I Minor                   NOR             Ford Focus RS   3hr 11min 14.8sec
7.  F Villagra/J Perez Companc  ARG             Ford Focus RS   3hr 18min 01.4sec
8.  M Prokop/J Tomanek          CZE             Ford Fiesta S2000       3hr 25min 17.6sec
9.  X Pons/A Haro                       ESP    &nb sp;        Ford Fiesta S2000       3hr 25min 22.4sec
10 A Araujo/R Miguel                    POR             Mitsubishi Lancer       3hr 26min 54.3sec

Stage Times

Stage 10: 1. Loeb 18min 18.3sec; 2. Hirvonen + 10.3; 3. Latvala + 12.3; 4. Ogier + 15.0; 5. P Solberg + 16.7; 6. H Solberg + 21.8.

Overall: 1. P Solberg 1hr 42min 14.9sec; 2. Loeb + 10.5; 3. Ogier + 13.3; 4. Latvala + 56.9; 5. Hirvonen + 1:25.1; 6. H Solberg + 1:42.7.

Stage 11: 1. Loeb 18min 10.2sec; 2. H Solberg + 3.8; 3. Latvala + 10.2; 4. Hirvonen + 10.5; 5. Ogier + 12.1; 6. P Solberg + 15.9.

Overall: 1. Loeb 2hr 00min 35.8sec; 2. P Solberg + 5.2; 3. Ogier + 14.7; 4. Latvala + 56.4; 5. Hirvonen + 1:24.9; 6. H Solberg + 1:35.8.

Stage 12: 1. Loeb 14min 03.7sec; 2. Ogier + 3.8; 3. H Solberg + 4.1; 4. Hirvonen + 4.5; 5. P Solberg + 11.4; 6. Latvala + 22.1.

Overall: 1. Loeb 2hr 14min 39.5sec; 2. P Solberg + 16.6; 3. Ogier + 18.5; 4. Latvala + 1:18.5; 5. Hirvonen + 1:29.4; 6. H Solberg + 1:39.9.

Stage 13: 1. Loeb 1min 15.3sec; 2. P Solberg + 1.2; 3. Ogier + 1.4; 4. Hirvonen + 1.6; 5. Latvala + 2.2; 6. H Solberg + 2.3.

Overall: 1. Loeb 2hr 15min 54.8sec; 2. P Solberg + 17.8; 3. Ogier + 19.9; 4. Latvala + 1:20.7; 5. Hirvonen + 1:31.0; 6. H Solberg + 1:42.2.

Stage 14: 1. Loeb 18min 01.6sec; 2. Latvala + 7.8; 3. Ogier + 10.6; 4. Hirvonen + 12.7; 5. P Solberg + 14.3; 6. H Solberg + 22.1.

Overall: 1. Loeb 2hr 33min 56.4sec; 2. Ogier + 30.5; 3. P Solberg + 32.1; 4. Latvala + 1:28.5; 5. Hirvonen + 1:43.7; 6. H Solberg + 2:04.3.

Stage 15: 1. Loeb 17min 44.9sec; 2. Latvala + 7.5; 3. Hirvonen + 13.3; 4. H Solberg + 15.1; 5. P Solberg + 16.6; 6. Ogier + 19.3.

Overall: 1. Loeb 2hr 51min 41.3sec; 2. P Solberg + 48.7; 3. Ogier + 49.8; 4. Latvala + 1:36.0; 5. Hirvonen + 1:57.0; 6. H Solberg + 2:19.4.

Stage 16: 1. Loeb 13min 50.4sec; 2. Hirvonen + 2.3; 3. P Solberg + 4.4; 4. Latvala + 5.0; 5. H Solberg + 5.3; 6. Ogier + 8.8.

Overall: 1. Loeb 2hr 51min 41.3sec; 2. P Solberg + 48.7; 3. Ogier + 49.8; 4. Latvala + 1:36.0; 5. Hirvonen + 1:57.0; 6. H Solberg + 2:19.4.

Stage 17: 1. Loeb 1min 39.1sec; 2. Ogier + 0.3; 3. H Solberg + 0.5; 4. Hirvonen + 0.7; 5. P Solberg + 1.0; 6. Villagra + 1.8; 7. Latvala + 1.9.

Overall: 1. Loeb 3hr 07min 10.8sec; 2. P Solberg + 54.1; 3. Ogier + 58.9; 4. Latvala + 1:42.9; 5. Hirvonen + 2:00.0; 6. H Solberg + 2:25.2.

Stage 18: 1. Ogier 1min 38.1sec; 2. Hirvonen + 0.6; 3= Loeb, H Solberg + 0.7; 5. Villagra + 0.9; 6. Latvala + 1.7.
Overall: 1. Loeb 3hr 08min 49.6sec; 2. P Solberg + 55.5; 3. Ogier + 58.2; 4. Latvala + 1:43.9; 5. Hirvonen + 1:59.9; 6. H Solberg + 2:25.2.

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