Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala will carry a 32.1-second lead over team-mate Sebastien Ogier into Saturday’s Rally Mexico stages after extending his advantage on Friday afternoon.
The Finn had snatched control of the rally from Ogier during the morning loop, and was able to strengthen his advantage on SS8, the re-run of El Chocolate, although with the pair both fitting four hard tires to their Polo R WRCs, the 10s he was able to add to his lead was half of what he had gained on Ogier on the first run.
Adding to that lead slightly on SS8, Latvala then gained 0.4s over the two superspecials at the Autodromo Leon to leave him with slightly more than half a minute in hand over Ogier, who has won the previous three rallies in Mexico.
Dani Sordo enjoyed an impressive day in his New Generation Hyundai i20 WRC, and remains third despite a throttle issue on SS7. The Spaniard, who also suffered from overheating brakes – overcame that problem to set the third fastest time on SS8, before matching Ogier for the fastest time on the second run of the superspecial.
Andreas Mikkelsen lies fourth in the third Polo R WRC, and like Sordo complained of a loose car on the afternoon’s two longer stages. The Norwegian overshot a junction on El Chocolate and lost 15s to Sordo, with the pair half a minute apart heading into Saturday’s stages.
Hayden Paddon and Mads Ostberg are locked in one of the closer battles for position on the leaderboard in fifth and sixth.
Paddon leads the M-Sport driver by 14.8s having edged slightly further ahead of Ostberg on the two superspecials – although that margin would be 10s less had the Norwegian not been penalised for a jump start on SS7.
After a turbulent visit to Mexico last year, Ott Tanak continued to enjoy a largely anonymous run on the 2016 edition of the event as he consolidated seventh in the afternoon – although the Estonian did set the second-fastest time on SS9.
Martin Prokop occupies eighth on his return to the World Rally Championship, 15s ahead of Lorenzo Bertelli in his FWRT Fiesta RS WRC. He does however trail 10th-place Teemu Suninen, the Finn having avoided any danger in his Skoda Fabia R5 to comfortable lead the WRC2 category and remain within touching distance of the back of the WRC pack.
Class rivals Armin Kremer and Nicolas Fuchs both hit trouble on SS7, with Kremer retiring and Fuchs dropping five minutes to Suninen on SS8.