Mexico : P-WRC - Finish
British duo Mark Higgins and co-driver Scott Martin drove an almost perfect rally in their Mitsubishi to take their first P-WRC victory on the second round of the 2007 P-WRC, Rally Mexico. Japanese Toshi Arai brought his Subaru home in second ahead
of Finnish driver Kristian Sohlberg (Subaru) in third. The result puts the trio in reverse order at the top of the P-WRC points table.
Stobart-backed Higgins set a confident pace from the outset but nearest rival Mirco Baldacci (RSM, Subaru) stayed close and finished the first day only 10 seconds adrift of the Brit. Sohlberg and Arai traded ownership of third place on leg one with Fumio Nutahara (J, Mitsubishi) on their tail, but a puncture for the Finn dropped him back to sixth and saw Arai start the second day with a 14-second advantage ahead of Nutahara in fourth.
Higgins lost the lead temporarily to Baldacci early on leg two after clipping a bank but he quickly regained his lead. Then disaster struck for Baldacci on SS14 when a puncture cost him four minutes, denying the San Marino driver any chance of stealing victory from Higgins, promoting Arai and Sohlberg in to second and third respectively ahead of Baldacci in fourth. And sadly for Nutahara, a broken front differential on leg two saw him drop down the order, leaving the top four to simply hold position on the final day.
American multiple motocross champion Travis Pastrana (Subaru) loved every minute of his first ever WRC rally although it started a little shakily.
He went off the road a few times on leg one so decided to take it a little more steadily from there on. With an aim to simply gain experience and cover as many competitive kilometres as possible, and having never competed using his own pace notes before, he was nervous to attack too much. A blown shock absorber on SS9 and rock damage to the wheel alignment on the stage following reinforced his concerns but he continued staying out of trouble which eventually paid off, rewarding the reigning Rally America Champion with four points for fifth place.
OMV-backed Czech driver Štěpán Vojtěch (Mitsubishi) was contesting his first WRC rally in over half a year so he started playing with set-up to regain some confidence. A fuel pump problem on SS4 causing a misfire for the next few stages made progress difficult and a late call in his notes saw him hit a rock causing a slow puncture which eventually flattened in SS10. By the end of the second day he had problems with his battery not working properly and he returned to service with his windscreen wipers and lights stuck on but he stayed out of trouble on leg three to finish sixth. After losing time and position on leg two with a broken differential, Nutahara fought back on the final day, but with so much time to make up, he could only hold on to his seventh position.
Spyros Pavlides (CY, Subaru) struggled a little on leg one as his car was set-up for Cypriot conditions and he hit a ditch on SS1 and took on a puncture on SS2. With the suspension stiffened, the afternoon and leg two were better, with the exception of having stones thrown at the car by spectators which disrupted his rhythm and damaged the windows. SS14 took its toll resulting in two punctures but he continued steadily on leg three to take the final available point for eighth.
Mirco's younger brother Loris Baldacci (RSM, Subaru), started the event well but he crashed under the bridge on the first run of the superspecial stage causing front suspension damage. Like Pavlides, he had a few troubles with rocks from spectators hitting the windscreen on SS10 but he continued almost trouble-free to finish ninth.
Alexander Dorosinskiy (RUS, Subaru) damaged the front suspension of his Subaru 10 kilometres into SS2. He made repairs good enough to get back to service but incurred penalties for all the uncompleted stages. Leg two was much better with just a spin on SS10 to report and being stuck in the dust behind Vojtech on SS14, and he drove safely on the final day to 10th position.
Balazs Benik (Mitsubishi) spun in SS2 losing about 40 seconds then on SS5 he got caught in the dust of Martin Rauam (EE, Mitsubishi) and ended the day with no turbo pressure. Leg two saw him plagued with suspension, differential and fuel pump problems only to be sidelined after losing a wheel in SS14 but he restarted for leg three to finish 12th.
Red Bull-backed Andreas Aigner (Mitsubishi) had a difficult rally as rocks damaged his Mitsubishi's radiator on SS3, causing his engine to overheat and sidelining him for the day. He restarted leg two and in comparison to the day before, things looked much better, but he still drove without the anti-lag system and with his heater on to protect the engine as much as possible from overheating, and struggled for power throughout. By the final day the car was performing much better and he eventually brought his Mitsubishi the finish in 11th position.
Stuart Jones (GB, Mitsubishi) also had an eventful rally as his radiator broke on the first stage after losing all the water and he stopped in the stage for 16 minutes to cool the engine down. Like Aigner, he continued without the antilag system, but on the next stage his steering column broke and he was forced to continue for the rest of the group of stages with the column on his lap. While the engine condition continued the next day, he set much better stage times for legs two and three and finished 13th.
Rodrigo Salgado (MEX, Mitsubishi) rolled on leg one and restarted the next day but transmission failure stopped him again. After restarting again for the final day, he eventually finished 14th.
The first P-WRC casualty was Mauro Rangoni (I, Mitsubishi) who, replacing Fabio Frisiero (I) for the event, retired on the opening stage with transmission problems. But the most surprising retirement was defending P-WRC champion Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) who went off on a fast corner with a slow puncture on SS2, the longest stage of the rally – the 22.66km Ortega 1, only to roll five times end over end. The crew was unhurt but the car destroyed.
Rauam's rally went from bad to worse as leg one saw the rear driveshaft of his Mitsubishi come away from the differential, break the centre differential and lose first and second gear. Leg two saw the front differential break and transmission damage was too extensive to continue, forcing him into retirement.
Leszek Kuzaj (POL, Subaru) had a difficult event as his engine started overheating on SS5 and a subsequent lack of power made going very tricky. Leg two started just as badly as SS9 saw his Subaru experience fuel pump problems, damage to both wheels on the right side of the car making the suspension difficult to handle. He damaged the steering on SS11 but the final straw was a small accident on the next stage which damaged a wheel and the roll cage, forcing him to retire.
Guest driver Francisco Name (MEX, Mitsubishi), entered by the event organisers, crashed on SS1 causing too much damage to continue.