Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen leads Rally Mexico following the opening loop this morning, albeit only 0.6 seconds up on his team-mate, Sebastien Loeb.

Hirvonen, who was fourth quickest in the Guanajuato Street Stage last night, took over at the head of the times in the very first test today, when he posted the quickest time in El Cubilete [SS2], 0.8 seconds up on Jari-Matt Latvala. He then slipped behind his former Ford team-mate in SS3 though, and was 2.2 seconds back after SS4.

However in the next test, Latvala hit rock and broke his front suspension. As a result Hirvonen re-took the lead and headed into the mid-day halt fractionally ahead of the other works DS3 WRC of Loeb: "It was okay for us this morning we had no problems with the car or tyres so won't make many changes," Hirvonen said.

Loeb meanwhile also enjoyed a good morning and finished with a flourish having set the pace in both SS4 and SS5: "The stages are changing all the time," Loeb remarked, "so getting a rhythm is difficult. I'm pretty happy with the car though."

While Citroen could be happy with the morning loop, the same could not be said for Ford and both works Fiesta's had problems.

Petter Solberg, who set the pace in the qualifying stage and who had led overnight, was the first in the doldrums when he picked up a puncture in SS2 and lost more than 50 seconds. His woe was further compounded by another puncture in SS3 and he ended the loop down in seventh, almost 1.5 minutes off the lead.

"It was a frustrating morning," Solberg stated. "I was trying really hard. On the first stage I had a small touch on the left rear [and then got a puncture]. On the stage after I went flat out - my fault [and got another puncture]. On the last two I was on three tyres, the fourth tyre had nothing on."

With Solberg in trouble, Latvala took over and was quickest in SS3 to seize top spot. In Ortega 1 though, he also had problems as already outlined. Consequently he slipped down to eighth, 6 seconds behind Petter.

All that has left Mads Ostberg as the lead Ford in third - albeit almost 40 seconds off the two Citroens ahead: "It has been a good morning," Ostberg said. "It was very difficult to find the rhythm but I'm very happy with how we have done. We have done a good job inside the car and now we have to focus on the cars around us."

Behind Ostberg, Thierry Neuville is just 5.2 seconds back in his Citroen Junior WRT-run DS3 WRC and he set three top-five times: "It was quite okay. We drove at our own rhythm. We are here to drive and we are happy so far. There is a lot of gravel but I didn't slow down. The experience will come," he remarked.

Next up is M-Sport Ford WRT duo Ott Tanak and Evgeny Novikov, the former 17.4 seconds off the Ostberg-Neuville scrap and a similar amount up on his team-mate: "It was tricky," Tanak commented after SS5. "I had two spares in the front but it was still quite challenging. We have some problems with the brakes so we will make some changes in service."

Of the rest, Chris Atkinson lies ninth on his return to the WRC and he has made a good start on his maiden outing in the Monster WRT Fiesta RS WRC. The Aussie had been running seventh post-SS3, but slipped back with a puncture late on.

"Before the puncture I was going really well unfortunately this stage [SS5] held us back," he lamented. "There is more speed in me and in the car so hopefully you will see that this afternoon."

Armindo Araujo rounds out the top ten in his WRC MINI Team Portugual John Cooper Works WRC car, ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah, the VW Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia S2000's of Kevin Abbring and Sebastien Ogier and PWRC class leader, Benito Guerra in positions 11 through to 14.

Ken Block is 18th. The American had been just outside the top-ten post SS4, but went off and into a ditch in SS5: "I had to clean a lot. In the last stage it felt like I was driving on ice and I fell into a ditch," he confirmed. "We made the decision to pull over to let Chris [Atkinson - my Monster WRT team-mate] go by, but little did I know he had a puncture also! So, that last stage was quite frustrating."

The action now continues with a repeat-run through this morning's four stages. El Cubilete 2 [SS6] is due to start at 13.36 hours local time [19.36 hours UK time]. The day then concludes with two runs through the 2.21 km Super Special.

Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 5 (Top 10):

1. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 47mins 50.1secs M
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 00.6secs M
3. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 39.9secs M
4. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 45.1secs M
5. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 02.5secs M
6. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 16.7secs M
7. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 26.8secs M
8. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 32.8secs M
9. Chris Atkinson Monster WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 47.2secs
10. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +02mins 10.5secs


11. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +02mins 11.3secs M
12. Kevin Abbring VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 33.5secs
13. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 34.5secs
14. Benito Guerra Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +04mins 01.4secs P
15. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +04mins 15.1secs P
16. Ricardo Trivino Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 26.1secs
18. Ken Block Monster WRT Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 05.7secs

PWRC standings after Stage 5 - Top 3:

1. Benito Guerra Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 51mins 51.5secs P
2. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 13.7secs P
3. Nicolas Fuchs Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +00mins 30.6secs P

Notable retirements:

DNS. Henning Solberg Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC Did not start
SS5. Paulo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Stopped in test

all times unofficial


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