THIERRY Neuville has topped Shakedown at Rally Guanajuato Mexico as the new-era 2017 World Rally Cars faced gravel action for the first time.
There was huge anticipation in the León service park when crews headed out to the 5.31km Llano Grande test on Wednesday evening local time as onlookers waited for the first form guide from the new cars on dirt roads.
Neuville was quickest on his third and final pass through the test in a Hyundai i20 Coupe, 1.7sec quicker than Sébastien Ogier’s Ford Fiesta. Kris Meeke completed the top three in a Citroën C3, a further half-second back.
Rally Sweden winner Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth in a Toyota Yaris, meaning all four different manufacturer teams were represented in the top four places.
The rally contains several sections of road that have not been used before and Neuville warned they could cause problems.
“The rally is tricky and we need to be very, very careful in the new parts which are rough in places,” he said.
“They will be slippery with a lot or rocks everywhere because the stages have been graded. They have made the roads wider, but taken a lot of stones from the roadside onto the tracks, so it will be tough.”
The Belgian denied feeling under pressure after crashing out of the lead at the opening two rounds in Monte-Carlo and Sweden.
“We’ve done many great things but obviously we weren’t able to get it to the end of the rally. We were a bit unlucky; hopefully we can bring home some good results now for the team.
“It’s important for the manufacturers’ championship but also for me in the drivers’ championship to catch some points on Ogier, Latvala and Tänak.
“The title is still possible. We can score 30 points on just one rally and they are only 40 points ahead.”
After completing the Shakedown, cars were prepared for their 400 km truck journey to Mexico City and the historic Zócalo Square Super Special Stage on Thursday night.
Shakedown Top 10:
- Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20 Coupe) 3min 45.8sec
- Sébastien Ogier (Ford Fiesta) 3min 47.5sec
- Kris Meeke (Citroën C3) 3min 48.0sec
- Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota Yaris ) 3min 48.3sec
- Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20 Coupe) 3min 48.6sec
- Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20 Coupe) 3min 48.7sec
- Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta) 3min 48.9sec
- Ott Tänak (Ford Fiesta) 3min 50.3sec
- Stéphane Lefebvre (Citroën C3) 3min 50.6sec
- Juho Hänninen (Toyota Yaris) 3min 50.7sec