Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier has extended his lead on Rally Mexico after a dramatic start to Friday's action, which saw Ott Tanak, Kris Meeke, Robert Kubica and Hayden Paddon all sidelined.
Ogier, who took the lead on Thursday night in SS2, had expected to struggle running first in the order as the principal road sweeper, but he was third in the opening test of the day to just cling onto the lead, 0.2s up on Thierry Neuville.
Ogier then went quickest SS4, extending his lead to 13.3s, and while the Frenchman was only second in SS5, 4.4s off Neuville, he set the pace again in SS6, the first run through the short 1.37km Leon Street stage, to head into the mid-day service with a 9.6 second advantage.
“It is quite amazing to be where we are now,” Ogier told the official WRC site. “I had a great loop, it was very slippery, but I did not give up - even on the long stage [SS4] when I felt we were going very slowly.
“The choice of two soft tyres was correct. I was able to play with them, moving them around the car and that worked well.”
Meanwhile, Neuville was delighted to be 'best of the rest' and pushing for the lead in his Hyundai i20 WRC, although his morning wasn't without problems.
“We could not imagine it would be this good, but a clever tyre choice compensated a bit for the road conditions. The result is great,” he said. “Okay, on the long stage I should have stayed on two soft and two hard tyres, like Ogier, inside I put on only one soft tyre.
“The only other [main] problem was the spin that cost us 10 seconds [in SS4]. We hit a stone that somebody had put on the road. It was put in a cut by spectators, and I was a bit angry. Without that I think we could be leading.”
Jari-Matti Latvala completes the top three, 6.2s back, reporting he is struggling with the rear of his Polo R WRC.
Behind, Citroen's Mads Ostberg is a frustrated fourth in his DS 3 WRC after suffering similar gearbox issues as in Sweden.
“We did most of Sweden with a gearbox problem and I have a similar situation here,” he explained. “I spun in one place today [in SS3] where I was changing down from second to first and the 'box jumped two gears and put me in neutral instead. I was angry then, but I have calmed down now.”
VW II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen is next up in fifth, taking it cautiously after his nightmare run on this event twelve months ago, and only 0.1s ahead of M-Sport's Elfyn Evans.
“It's been difficult out there with really changeable grip levels," said Evans. "We had a good time through the long stage [SS4], but when I got to the end I didn't think it had been that good. I felt as though we had been a bit too hesitant but there were clearly some positives so that bodes well.
“I'm sure the stages will be rougher this afternoon so there is that to keep in mind, but hopefully we can have some more consistent grip and concentrate on having a clean run with another improvement in pace."
Dani Sordo lies seventh on his return from injury - albeit more than 30 seconds further back after struggling with gearbox issues from SS4 on.
Further back, Martin Prokop is eighth - reporting a “big, big moment” in SS4 due to a pacenote issue and then having to stop in SS5 due to a cow – followed by WRC2 class leader Yuriy Protasov and local star Benito Guerra Jr.
In terms of retirements, Tanak was the first major casualty, when he went off in SS3 – the first proper test of the event – and put his M-Sport-run Fiesta RS WRC in a lake. Tanak and co-driver Ragio Molder both escaped unharmed
. SS4 then claimed Meeke, Paddon and Kubica. Meeke crashed near the start, while Paddon had to stop about 3km in after damaging the suspension on his Hyundai i20. Kubica then also stopped and while he did get going again, he had to park it again about halfway through.
Rally Mexico now continues this afternoon with repeat runs through all four of this morning's stages. SS7, Los Mexicanos 2, is scheduled to start at 14.59 hours local time [20.59 hours UK time]. Full itinerary for event available - HERE
2015 Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 6 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 53m 55.5s
2. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +0m 09.6s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0m 15.8s
4. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 24.4s
5. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +0m 34.0s
6. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 34.1s
7. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 06.6s
8. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 07.5s
9. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta RRC +2m 08.7s
10. Benito Guerra Jr.
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 14.2s
11. Lorenzo Bertelli
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 14.3s
12. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Ford Fiesta RRC +2m 20.2s
13. Nicolas Fuchs
Ford Fiesta R5 +2m 37.9s
14. Jari Ketomaa
Ford Fiesta R5 +2m 38.6s
WRC2 standings after Stage 6 (Top 3):
1. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta RRC 56m 04.2s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Ford Fiesta RRC +0m 11.5s
3. Nicolas Fuchs
Ford Fiesta R5 +0m 29.2s
SS3. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off
SS4. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC Went off
SS4. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC Suspension damage
SS4. Robert Kubica
RK WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Stopped
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial