Petter Solberg has taken the initiative on the Rally Mexico following the opening loop this morning and now leads the second round in the 2010 World Rally Championship by 17.1 seconds.
Solberg, who was quickest in the shakedown on Thursday, was on it from the off and made the most of his more favourable road position to top the times in SS1, the 22.96 kilometre-run through Alfaro 1, 9.8 seconds up on Sebastien Ogier.
'Hollywood' then set the pace again in SS2, increasing his cushion by 4.6 seconds, before adding another 3 seconds to his lead in SS3, El Cubilete 1. Although the Norwegian was 'only' third in the short 1.50 kilometre Coca-Cola Street Stage super special, he lost just 0.3 seconds to his closest rival and as a result heads into the mid-day service with a solid 17.1 second advantage.
"We are very happy but know this is mainly due to our position on the road," Solberg stated after SS1. "We started with hard settings on the suspension to heat the tyres up quickly and when they did, everything went fine. We shall see what position we are in at the end of the day."
Ogier meanwhile heads the chasing pack having been second quickest in SS1, SS2 and SS3 and fastest in SS4.
Sebastien Loeb completes the top three, 9 seconds off P2 and 26.1 seconds off P1. The Frenchman struggled running second on the road, although he wasn't compromised as much as his chief championship rival and Rally Sweden winner, Mikko Hirvonen.
Hirvonen ended the opening loop in sixth, almost a minute off the lead and around 30 seconds off Seb.
"It was so slippery on the loose gravel that I could do nothing more," said Hirvonen. "There's a fine layer of stones that we clear for everyone else. There's so much gravel that even one car lower in the start order makes a big difference and it's worse than I thought.
"There will be more grip this afternoon but it might be quite messy after the passage of the whole field this morning.
"I had two close escapes on the second stage. First I hit a rock in a fast right corner and then a concrete post in a left bend. I'm amazed we didn't puncture a tyre – it shows how strong they are."
Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala lie sandwiched between Loeb and Hirvonen, in fourth and fifth respectively. Sordo is three seconds off his Citroen team-mate, while Crash.net
columnist and BP Ford Abu Dhabi #2 driver Latvala is 11.2 seconds further back.
"I was too careful and cautious on the opening stage," Latvala admitted. "I didn't drive well and couldn't find a rhythm. My driving improved after that but I slid a lot on the loose gravel.