Citroen driver Mads Ostberg has taken over the lead on Rally Mexico following the opening loop this morning.
Ostberg, who was seventh in the short Guanajuatito Street Stage on Thursday evening, moved to the fore in the second test of the day, when he set the top time and was 3 seconds up on overnight leader and reigning WRC champion, Sebastien Ogier. The Norwegian then went quickest again in SS4, stretching his cushion to 6.6 seconds, before a gaff by his co-driver, Jonas Andersson, in SS5, saw that margin reduced to 3.3 seconds.
“It's been a really good first morning! The car is absolutely perfect and it all flows well in the car,” Ostberg wrote on his Facebook page. “I lost a bit of time with that incident before SS5, but luckily not too much. The mask for the radiator was not removed before we started the stage, so the engine was overheating a bit. I didn't push too hard on that one [as a result], as I'm not yet used to how much we can push with an overheated engine.”
Ogier meanwhile holds second in his Volkswagen Polo R WRC and is 'best of the rest', but is struggling running P2 in the order: “Being second on the road is a little difficult and there are no lines [to follow],” he stated ahead of the mid-day service.
Mikko Hirvonen is next up, just 8 seconds back, despite picking up a puncture in the first test of the day: “I hit a rock really hard [in SS5] and was lucky not to have another puncture. We have to fight harder this afternoon,” said the M-Sport man.
Further back, Jari-Matti Latvala holds fourth and while he has had to run first and act as the principal road sweeper, he was pretty pleased with his pace.
“A decent morning, not been easy though,” said the Finn. “I'm not on vacation here! I've been busy in the office today... I've really been working - now we go to service and hope it will be a little bit easier in the afternoon. I'm still going to be in a bit of a difficult position but at least there'll be a bit of a line - not always suitable for me I guess, but at least for braking and acceleration we should find a cleaner line.
"There'll maybe some rocks of course and one privilege of being first on the road this morning is that you don't see so many rocks.”
Behind, Britain's Kris Meeke is fifth, with former F1 ace, Robert Kubica sixth, albeit over 30 seconds adrift: “It was a bit tricky I have to say," Meeke noted. "Some parts are so slippery and some parts aren't cleaning at all. I am still not quite completely comfortable.”
Of the rest, Elfyn Evans, Martin Prokop, Thierry Neuville and local star, Benito Guerra round out the top-ten.
In WRC2, Yuriy Protasov heads the class - 7.2 seconds up on Lorenzo Bertelli. Massimiliano Rendina holds third.
As for retirements, SS3 claimed a number of scalps, including VW Motorsport II pilot, Andreas Mikkeslen, as well as WRC2 runners, Ott Tanak, Quentin Gilbert, Nicolas Fuchs and Augusto Bestard. It is not yet known if any of them will be able to restart on Saturday under Rally 2.
Friday's action now continues with a repeat-run through this morning's four stages. The leg then concludes with two runs through the 2.21 km Super Special Stage.
Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 5 (Top 10):
1. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 52m 24.6s
2. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 03.3s
3. Mikko Hirvonen
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 11.3s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 19.2s
5. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 25.0s
6. Robert Kubica
RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 00.6s
7. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 14.4s
8. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 33.7s
9. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +01m 36.2s
10. Benito Guerra
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 35.9s
11. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta R5 +03m 19.4s
12. Lorenzo Bertelli
Ford Fiesta R5 +03m 06.5s
13. Chris Atkinson
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +04m 22.8s
WRC2 standings after Stage 5 (Top 3):
1. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta R5 55m 44.0s
2. Lorenzo Bertelli
Ford Fiesta R5 +00m 07.1s
3. Massimiliano Rendina
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X RC2 +05m 45.6s
SS3. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC Went off
SS3. Ott Tanak
Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta R5 Went off
SS3. Quentin Gilbert
Ford Fiesta R5 Retired
SS3. Nicolas Fuchs
Ford Fiesta RRC Suspension
SS3. Augusto Bestard
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X RC2 Retired
all times unofficial