Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb holds P1 on Rally Mexico mid-day through the opening day.
Loeb, who was second last night in the short Guanjuato Street Stage, trailed his team-mate and early leader Sebastien Ogier through the first two tests this morning, 0.5 seconds off the pace in SS2 and 1.4 seconds adrift in SS3. However, the WRC record man set the pace in SS4 and SS5 to move up to the head of the pack and he now returns to Leon for the 30-minute mid-day service, with a slender 1.3 second cushion.
“We are going very well,” Loeb said. “I was driving quite hard this morning. I don't want to be first on the road tomorrow. I have a good feeling with the tyres.”
“It is a good start,” added Citroen Total WRT boss Olivier Quesnel, “but we are fourth and sixth on the road and that may explain where we are now. We knew we would be competitive on gravel but we will see at the end of the day and tomorrow. It is too early to tell you the strategy for the end of the day. Maybe this afternoon there will be some punctures so we will see tonight.”
Meanwhile, Petter Solberg is 'best of the rest' - 18.4 seconds off the lead in his privately entered DS3 WRC: “Ogier is doing a very good job,” 'Hollywood' said after SS4. “It was not bad for me. I am pushing hard. I changed the suspension a bit on the road section before here because it was a little too soft.”
Mikko Hirvonen is next up and heads the Ford challenge despite having to run first in the order. The Finn was fifth quickest in SS2 and SS3, before setting the fourth best time in SS4 and the sixth best in SS5. He now lies 22.5 seconds off third.
“It was fine,” said the Rally Sweden winner. “I'm quite happy with how it went. Not perfect but we are happy where we are. The set-up was a bit soft but no problems. We lost less time than last year so that is positive.”
Further back, Matthew Wilson is a surprise fifth, albeit a minute further back, followed by fellow M-Sport Stobart men Evgeny Novikov and Henning Solberg, all split by less than 20 seconds.
Denis Kuipers, Jari-Matti Latvala and SWRC class leader, Nasser Al-Attiyah complete the top ten, the latter just 0.7 seconds off Latvala, who lost over 2 minutes in SS4 with a puncture.
“The tyre went flat about 5km after the start and I drove another 1km before stopping,” Latvala explained. “It happened on a wide, smooth section and I didn't feel an impact so maybe a sharp stone was to blame. Perhaps not cutting corners to avoid risking punctures will be part of the game this season. The tyres are very driver-friendly, quite like racing tyres, and give me a good feeling. The roads didn't clean as much as I expected but, apart from the puncture, I was happy with the morning.”