Volkswagen Motorsport's Sebastien Ogier set the standard again this morning on Rally Mexico.
Ogier began the second leg with a 33 second buffer and he immediately stretched that in the opening test of the day, the 30.04 km Ibarrilla 1 test, setting the pace, 8.4 seconds up on Mads Ostberg, who was second and 'best of the rest', despite a clutch problem.
Ostberg's challenge though was soon halted for good, when he had to stop on the road section to the next stage with a broken alternator. That left Ogier comfortably out front, although he was still quickest in SS15, the 42.17 km Otates 1 test - 15.6 seconds up on Mikko Hirvonen, who now holds second.
Following the short Leon Street Stage, the Frenchman headed back to service with a 1 minute 8.4 second advantage.
“It was a great morning again,” said Ogier. “I feel a bit disappointed for Mads. On the second one I really backed off [but was still quickest]. Now we just want to get to the end and avoid every rock and save the car as much as I can.”
Hirvonen meanwhile seems content with second: “I really tried to attack on the first stage [and put pressure on Ostberg]. Then we heard that Mads was out and we could take it more carefully. I have not been pushing too hard,” he confirmed.
Behind, Thierry Neuville is up to third, although he lost over a minute in SS15, as a result of hitting a rock in SS14, which damaged the steering on his Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC: “It has been a very stressful morning for us! Half way into the first stage [Ibarrilla 1 – SS14] we caught the inside of a right-hand corner, only very slightly, but we damaged the steering and it just got worse as we went on,” explained the Belgian.
“Then about one kilometre into the long stage [Otates 1 – SS15], in a fast left-hander, the steering just froze and we had a big spin. It was a very scary moment and I think we were very lucky. After that, we just took it very smoothly until the end to ensure we made it through.
“I am very disappointed for Mads because he was doing a great job. For me it's good of course because it means I gain a position. But now it is even more stressful and we really need to ensure we make it to the end with no problems.”
Dani Sordo lies fourth but the Spaniard has still to get his Citroen DS3 WRC set-up to his liking: “I cannot drive the car,” he said after SS15. “If I push any harder we will go out. We tried a little bit yesterday. If I knew the problem we would change it...”
Further back, Nasser Al-Attiyah is next up and rounds out the top five, ahead of Ken Block and Benito Guerra.
“It's been a good morning – not easy because these stages are very fast but our times have been really good. We will try to keep this pace but it is a really long rally. For sure it will be a difficult afternoon with a lot of loose rocks, but we will try to do our best,” Al-Attiyah remarked. “We've made a big step forward this year and I am really enjoying driving this Fiesta [RS WRC]. The car is working very well and the team is pushing hard to make everything happen. I hope that we can get a good result here as it will be really important for myself, and the team - and also for Qatar!”