Sebastien Ogier resisted challenges from Thierry Neuville and Jari-Matti Latvala to maintain a 13.5-second lead after a wild first full day of Rally Mexico.
Hyundai driver Neuville looked set to close right in on Ogier’s Volkswagen on the long El Chocolate stage, where he halved the World Rally champion’s advantage on the early splits. But Neuville’s victory bid ended in the closing miles of the stage, as he picked up a puncture and then rolled off the road.
Latvala was closing on both Neuville and Ogier by that time, having kickstarted his previously disappointing rally by winning the afternoon’s opening Los Mexicanos stage.
By the end of the Las Minas stage, Latvala had got Ogier’s lead down to 10.9s, but he then made a minor error on the evening superspecial, dropping him back to 13.5s adrift as Ogier hung on to a lead he had predicted would be impossible to achieve when first on the road.
Mads Ostberg is now third for Citroen. He responded to a growing threat from Andreas Mikkelsen in the third VW by winning Las Minas and re-establishing a 16s cushion.
Elfyn Evans is a lonely fifth, with Dani Sordo’s efforts to catch him hampered by a puncture.
Only seven of the 14 World Rally Cars that started the event are still running. In addition to Neuville, Ott Tanak, Kris Meeke, Hayden Paddon and Robert Kubica’s errors, both Benito Guerra and Lorenzo Bertelli went off on El Chocolate.
With so many likely to return under Rally2 on Saturday, Ogier will no longer be running first on the road for day two, as the drivers rejoining take his place in the least favorable starting positions.
Efforts continue to raise Tanak’s M-Sport Ford from the bed of the lake into which it crashed on Friday morning.
Tanak went off on the first stage of the morning and ended up underwater, but M-Sport believes it will be possible to revive the car for leg two if it can be brought back to service.
LEADING POSITIONS AFTER SS10:
|1||Sebastien Ogier||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen||–|
|2||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen||13.5s|
|3||Mads Ostberg||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen||29.5s|
|4||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport II||Volkswagen||45.2s|
|5||Elfyn Evans||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford||1m 03.9s|
|6||Daniel Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||1m 40.5s|
|7||Martin Prokop||Jipocar Czech National Team||Ford||2m 03.5s|
|8||Jari Ketomaa||Drive Dmack||Ford||7m 04.1s|
|9||Valeriy Gorban||Eurolamp WRT||Mini/BMW||12m 39.4s|
|10||Stephane Lefebvre||PH Sport||Citroen||18m 43.9|
AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live coverage of Rally Mexico resumes from 3.20pm UK time on Saturday