Mexico - day 1: Latvala inches away.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala leads at the end of day 1 of the Corona Rally Mexico, the third round in the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship.

Jari led from the off and was 3 seconds up on his closest rival in the 22.96 kilometre-run through Alfaro 1. The Finn then set the third best time in SS2 and the second best time in SS3, to finish the morning with a 4.4 second advantage over Citroen's Sebastien Loeb.

Latvala increased that cushion further on the repeat loop this afternoon, setting the second best time in SS4, to take it up to 7 seconds, before two stage wins in Ortega 2 and El Cubilete 2 allowed him to inch further and further ahead, finishing all the 'proper' tests with an 11.2 second lead.

Although he saw that margin cut back a bit in the two super specials and conceded 1.3 seconds to Seb in SS7, Jari remains on top and will now take a 9.6 second lead into day 2.

It was an impressive performance and after having taken his maiden WRC win in Sweden at the start of February, he could well add another to his CV this weekend.

Loeb meanwhile, despite also winning three stages - albeit one being the second-run through the short 2.21 kilometre Super Special - just didn't seem to have an answer to the Finn's pace.

He remains a threat however and seemingly hasn't been affected by the engine issues which hampered his final pre-event preparations on Thursday in the shakedown.

Further down the order, Atkinson is third, having capitalised on his better position in the starting order to set the second best time in SS1 and two fourth best efforts in SS2 and SS3. The Aussie maintained that pace in the afternoon - despite a faulty intercom - and was third fastest in SS4, SS5 and SS6. Following the two super specials he now lies 12.8 seconds off Seb and 40.5 seconds up on his team-mate, Petter Solberg.

Solberg lost around 40 seconds on the first loop of three stages with brake problems, but bounced back in the afternoon, winning two stages and overhauling Mikko Hirvonen.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) / Miikka Anttila (FIN) BP Ford Focus RS WRC 07. Rally Mexico. February 29-March 2 2008. [PIC CREDIT: FORD / worldrallypics.com]
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Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) / Miikka Anttila (FIN) BP Ford Focus RS WRC 07. Rally Mexico. February 29-March 2 2008. [PIC CREDIT: FORD / worldrallypics.com]
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