Well that was a rally and a half. We always knew Mexico was going to be a challenging rally and while it lived up to its challenges and dramas, we are still happy to achieve our goal for the rally of a top five finish.
This, combined with six top three stage times and a further five top four stage times meant some speed was there, but some problems in-between ultimately cost us a chance at another podium.
It was nice to finish the weekend with our first power stage bonus point for third fastest on the final stage - however the speed of Seb (Sebastien Ogier) over the 16km stage was quite amazing. I'm sure it's a gap that both myself and the car can eventually bridge, but it serves as a reminder of how much work I still have to do.
Mexico is probably one of the most demanding events for the car, with the heat, altitude, long stages and harsh terrain often springing surprises. While we had a few small issues throughout the rally, all the teams cars ran reasonably well with no major problems, which is encouraging heading next to another rough challenging event - Argentina.
However, the majority of our 3 min loss had come from two broken suspension arms, one on Friday morning and the other on Saturday morning. Both times it come from a small mistake on my behalf, where we slightly touched a bridge on day 1 and a bank on day 2, when running a little wide. While the impacts were light and didn't really justify the broken part, we were lucky that more serious damage wasn't caused and we were able to get the car out of both stages and make roadside repairs afterwards. The positive from this is that this part will not be an issue in the future and has now been rectified.
Even when we struck problems we never panicked, as we knew this was a rally of survival rather than outright speed. It could have been very easy to throw the toys out of the cot when we had the issues. However, both John and I stayed calm throughout the weekend and focused on one stage at a time, knowing anything could and would happen. It was clear that Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala had the edge on everyone out front and we were only going to put it off the road if we tried to match that pace. So despite the problems we had, we concentrated on making setup changes to the car to gain more information, learn the stages (which we missed a lot of last year) and generally work on future ideas. In that respect it was quite successful and we know the areas we need to work on.
With nine super special stages in this rally, it was also a good opportunity to work on a big weak point of mine. I think we made some steps forward in this area, with several top four times on the super special stages and only loosing half the amount of time that we have normally done in the past. So we are heading in the right direction. When we want to fight for wins we can not afford to give away an easy 2-3 seconds on these sorts of stages like in the past, so this is why this is an area of focus for me personally.
After a bad start in Monte Carlo, we have now strung together two good point scoring rounds and are sitting in the top five in the championship. Second place Mads Ostberg is only 13 points in front, so it will be a close season battle for the podium spots in the championship. Already Sébastien Ogier has a huge lead, but with 11 rounds still to go anything can happen.
Again a huge thanks to the whole Hyundai Motorsport team and our own car team, crew chief and engineer. Also to John whom did an amazing job yet again with many many many pages of pacenotes. Particularly on today's long 80km stage, everything worked well in the car for what seemed like a relatively straightforward stage. Also big thanks to Katie for all the media work, updates and keeping me organised.
Now we return to Europe for two weeks, before heading back to NZ. We are really looking forward to getting back to NZ before we head to Argentina. It seems that Rally Otago is also on while we are in the country, so we are working on some things to try and be there. Watch this space.
Thanks for all the continued support and as always we will keep you posted