Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier continues to head the pack on Rally Mexico following the opening loop this morning.
Ogier, who took the early lead on Thursday after the two short opening super specials, began strongly and was 5 seconds up on Mads Ostberg in SS3, the 21.91 km El Cubilete test – the first 'proper' stage of the event.
However the Frenchman was only third in the next test and with Ostberg fastest, slipped to second overall, 1.4 seconds adrift.
Ogier then lost another 0.5 seconds in SS5, before re-asserting his authority in SS6, when he put in a storming time, 9 seconds faster than Mikko Hirvonen, who was 'best of the rest', while Ostberg was only fourth, 13.7 seconds back.
Following the Street Stage in Leon, and Ogier's third stage win of the day, he now heads back to service in Leon with a 12.9 second buffer.
“It was a good morning,” Ogier told WRC Live
after SS7. “I didn't have the best road position [after only qualifying fifth] but still we manage to lead the rally now. We can be happy with that. We have done a good job.
“Mads is going really well though, and is just behind us. We will have to continue to drive well if we want to stay in the lead.”
Ostberg meanwhile hasn't given up although he conceded that he struggled in SS6 because he thought he had a puncture.
“I've been struggling a bit with the set-up, but to be honest the times have not been so bad!" said the Qatar M-Sport WRT driver. "On the last long stage [El Chocolate – SS6] we had quite a good run but I hit a stone towards the end. I was sure I had a puncture, but I think that what I was feeling was just the tyres overheating slightly. I slowed down because of that and lost a bit of time, but we have also set some really good stage times which is for sure a positive thing.
“I think we still have some speed to come and I'm not scared to push. We're still in the fight and looking forward to this afternoon. We'll go back now, refill the drinks bottles, and get back to the battle with Sébastien [Ogier].”
Mikko Hirvonen is next up for Citroen and currently set for the final spot on the podium. Despite having the best road position after topping qualifying, the Finn was generally unable to match Ogier and Ostberg, although he did post two second quickest times and one third – and is only 5.3 seconds off P2.