Citroen teammates Sebastien Ogier and Sebastien Loeb are separated by just 1.6 at the top of the leaderboard for Rally Mexico as the opening day's action comes to a close.
Ogier was the initial pacesetter, winning the morning's first stage (Alfaro) to take the rally lead from fellow DS3 WRC driver Petter Solberg, who had won the short street stage around Guanajuato held on Thursday evening.
Ogier won SS3 Ortega to extend his lead over nearest rival Loeb, but the world champion won both SS4 El Cubilete and SS5 – a short blast around Leon – to snatch the lead from his teammate going into the midday service break.
However, Ogier won the afternoon repeat run of Alfaro to retake the overall lead. He then won SS7 Ortega 2 to extend his lead, before Loeb won SS8 El Cubilete 2 to reduce Ogier's lead by a second. The gap between the French duo stands at 1.6 seconds with two runs of the Super Special to be run before the end of the day.
Mikko Hirvonen is third overall, albeit 1 minute and 18 seconds behind Loeb. The Rally Sweden winner has run first on the road throughout the day and suffered as a result. Ford teammate Jari-Matti Latvala suffered a puncture on SS4, which cost him two minutes and dropped him from fourth to ninth. He has since recovered back to fourth.
Evgeny Novikov is an impressive fifth on his return to the WRC after over a year away. The Russian youngster, behind the wheel of a fourth M-Sport Stobart Fiesta, was running as high as fourth overall after SS7, but slipped behind Latvala on SS8.
Henning Solberg is sixth for M-Sport Stobart, with FERM driver Dennis Kuipers in seventh. Nasser Al-Attiyah is the top Super 2000 runner in eighth, the Dakar winner leading the S-WRC category in his Fiesta. He is 24.2 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Ott Tanak, who is ninth overall in his Fiesta, with Martin Prokop tenth in another Fiesta S2000.
Sweden runner-up Mads Ostberg is down in eleventh, the Norwegian having lost four minutes with a puncture on SS3. Compatriot Petter Solberg is also languishing down outside of the points after suffering a loss of power on SS6, losing nearly seven minutes. He had been running in third prior to the issue.
Matthew Wilson had taken advantage of Solberg's problems to move up to fourth overall, but stopped in SS7. Fellow Fiesta driver Federico Villagra stopped on the day's opening stage with a damaged car, while Ken Block came to a halt on the final stage of the day in his Monster Ford. The American was already a long way down the leaderboard after suffering electrical problems on Thursday evening's stage.
Overall standings after eight stages:
1. Sebastien Ogier (Citroen) 1h24m04.2s
2. Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) +1.6s
3. Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) +1m19.6s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) +2m51.3s
5. Evgeny Novikov (Stobart Ford) +2m54.3s
6. Henning Solberg (Stobart Ford) +3m11.7s
7. Dennis Kuipers (FERM Ford) +4m55.9s
8. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Barwa Ford) +5m01.5s
9. Ott Tanak (MM Ford) +5m25.7s
10. Martin Prokop (Czech Ford) +5m52.1s