With a year of WRC experience under their belts, Monster World Rally Team driver Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino showed a major improvement on Rally Mexico since their debut in 2010.
Unfortunately, a series of electrical issues, that started even before the Monster Energy Ford Fiesta RS WRC took to the opening stage, robbed the pair of a possible 6th place finish.
Yet they pressed on through the rugged, rocky and extremely dusty terrain of the Sierra de Lobos mountains to finish 12th overall, despite two early retirements and a 20-minute delay on one of the stages - all caused by gremlins in the Fiesta's electronics.
"It's hard not to focus on the mechanical issues because without them, I would have likely had the best finish of my WRC career," said Block. "But regardless, from a driving perspective, I'm very happy with our times compared to last year. This is the first event we've gone into with notes prepared, giving us an advantage we haven't had before. And with this only being our 9th WRC event ever, I feel confident we will continue to develop this season since we are already showing the pace to be 6th or 7th overall."
With their Fiesta being unable to make it to the start of the event on Thursday evening, Block and Gelsomino were forced to retire. This led to them having to SuperRally on Friday morning, taking on a 10-minute penalty.
Despite the setback, Block hit the stages and laid down consistent top-10 stage times throughout the day, until a new set of electrical problems stopped the Fiesta once again on SS8.
This forced the team to SuperRally for the second consecutive day on Saturday. Once again though, Block tore out of the gates in the morning and continued to move through the pack, putting down a series of 7th fastest stage times.
Unfortunately, on the afternoon run on the Duarte stage, Block clipped a tree stump, snapping a control arm, forcing the car to retire early for the third consecutive day and leading to yet another SuperRally for Sunday.
Block wasn't alone with problems in Mexico, a series of DNFs and issues for other WRC drivers had the Monster World Rally Team sitting 11th overall into leg 3.
The final day's performance from Block was a display of continued improvement over 2010, with two more "lucky 7" stage finishes. And after an off by rally leader Sebastien Ogier, Block and Gelsomino ironically found themselves in a point-earning position in 10th overall, despite three consecutive early retirements.
Again, the team's luck would run out when the electrical system acted up once more, delaying Block and Gelsomino for 20 minutes on the second to last stage, subsequently knocking them back a few spots.
"WRC Mexico is one of the toughest events on the calendar, partly due to the effect of high altitude on the engine and the rugged terrain, so despite the electrical issues, I'm very happy with Ken and Alex's performance here, as well as their perseverance each morning to press on after all the problems," said team manager Derek Dauncey. "Ken was consistently only 1.1-seconds per kilometer off the fastest Ford driver and 1.3-seconds per kilometer off the top time on each stage, which is an excellent pace for a driver who hasn't even completed a full season of events yet."
The next WRC round for MWRT will be Vodafone Rally de Portugal on March 24-27.