Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has taken the lead on Rally Mexico this afternoon and following all the 'proper' stages of the day he now heads into the short Super Specials with a 4.5 second advantage.
Loeb began the repeat loop just 0.6 seconds behind his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, and he immediately went ahead in SS6, the second run through El Cubilete, when he was 2.8 seconds quicker. The Frenchman then pulled further ahead in SS7 and SS8 and with SS9 cancelled on safety grounds [see separate story for more - click here
], the signs are already ominous for another Loeb win, and another Citroen 1-2.
Mads Ostberg meanwhile remains third in his Adapta WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC car, now just over a minute further back and coming under increased pressure from the recovering Jari-Matti Latvala.
Latvala had been leading this morning until he hit a rock in SS5 and damaged his front suspension. However a charge this afternoon, which saw him set the pace in all three stages, has seen him jump from eighth overall to fourth. He now lies 17.8 seconds off the final podium position.
“We have to try to attack,” said Jari-Matti. “We want to get some time back after hitting the rock. I have a really good feeling. It is always good to keep the pressure on them [the Citroens].”
Behind, Ott Tank is fifth, 10.5 seconds off P4 and 5.4 seconds up on Petter Solberg. Evgeny Novikov and WRC returnee, Chris Atkinson keep the Ford flag flying in seventh and eighth respectively, ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah and WRC MINI Team Portugal man, Armindo Araujo.
“I think we have to change the set-up,” said Atkinson. “If it wasn't for the puncture [in SS5] we would have been fighting for fifth or sixth. It's been a good day though and something to do build on for the future.”
In the PWRC, Benito Guerra has increased his advantage over Michal Kosciuszko from 13.7 seconds to 29.9 seconds. Nicolas Fuchs is third in the class, 6.5 seconds further adrift.
In terms of retirements, Thierry Neuville is the biggest scalp so far. He had been running fourth in his Citroen Junior WRT-run DS3 WRC car, until he took a wheel off in SS6. It is not yet known if he will be able to SupeRally.
The opening leg now continues with the Monster Street Stage Leon (SS10), which starts at 17.24 hours local time. Competitors then return to service, before tackling two runs through the 2.21 km Super Special (SS11 and SS12).
Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 8 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 1hour 20mins 01.5secs
2. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 04.5secs
3. Mads Ostberg
Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 02.1secs
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 19.9secs
5. Ott Tanak
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 30.4secs
6. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 35.8secs
7. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 48.6secs
8. Chris Atkinson
Monster WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 39.6secs
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +02mins 56.4secs
10. Armindo Araujo
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +03mins 33.0secs
11. Sebastien Ogier
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 14.5secs
12. Benito Guerra
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +06mins 50.1secs
13. Ricardo Trivino
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 15.9secs
14. Michal Kosciuszko
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +07mins 20.0secs
16. Ken Block
Monster WRT Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 52.9secs
PWRC standings after Stage 8 - Top 3:
1. Benito Guerra
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1hour 26mins 51.6secs
2. Michal Kosciuszko
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 29.9secs
3. Nicolas Fuchs
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +00mins 36.4secs
DNS. Henning Solberg
Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC Did not start
SS5. Paulo Nobre
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Accident
SS5/SS6. Kevin Abbring
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 Mechanical
SS6. Thierry Neuville
Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC Lost a wheel
all times unofficial