Kris Meeke is in the box seat to win Rally Guanajuato Mexico after an assured day three performance.
The Citroen driver holds a 31 second lead over M-Sport’s Sébastien Ogier going into the final day which consists of just two stages.
Throughout the day Meeke and Citroen fully justified why the championship favourites tag as for the first time this season driver and car showed composed pace, holding off Ogier without road position ever becoming a factor.
Meeke was never out of the top four on each of the mountain stages enabling him to double his overnight lead to 40 seconds.
Citroen’s only blot was Stéphane Lefebvre accident in stage 10 which retired him for the day.
The young Frenchman was sitting seventh overall at that point.
Improved Road Position Fails to Benefit Ogier
Ogier, with the benefit of no longer being tasked with road sweeping duties, stated that today would be an all or nothing day to attack Meeke.
Ironically though, despite the clean line, Ogier admitted that it was hindering his progress.
“To be honest I started a bit too carefully,” he rued at the end of the first stage.
“I’m not used to having a clean line and getting grip.”
Despite this he gained a second but lost ground to the Ulsterman in the following stages culminating in a spin during stage 13, which was claimed by Meeke.
After this Ogier conceded defeat, noting how second place would give him the championship lead from Jari-Matti Latvala.
The Finn was resigned to testing as his worst fears were confirmed as Toyota lacked the pace to challenge the opposition.
He did manage to overhaul team-mate Juho Hanninen on the penultimate superspecial stage in Leon to end the day in sixth place.
Just getting through the day was an achievement in itself for Hanninen who struggled with illness.
Hyundai meanwhile recovered from last night’s engine problems after a blocked fuel filter was found to be the reason why all three cars suffered from misfires.
Dani Sordo had a good day, winning the day’s first two stages and then had his 10 minute penalty from last night’s Leon Autodrome stage removed.
The penalty was applied after Sordo’s serve misfire caused the Hyundai to limp through the stage and was penalised “for not completing the stage in the correct manner”.
With that now gone, the Spaniard currently holds eighth place in the standings.
Thierry Neuville regretted fitting soft tyres for the afternoon loop which marooned him in third position.
Team-mate Hayden Paddon endured a frustrating day, suffering from punctures, a bad tyre choice and an inability to match the pace of those ahead of him.
Welshman Elfyn Evans in Team DMACK Fiesta had a difficult day as he was tasked with clearing the roads all day.
In spite of this, Evans climbed back into the top 10 and won both Leon Autodrome tests to end the day in ninth place.
WRC2: Tidemand and Camilli Battle over Fractions.
The fight for WRC2 honours proved to be a lot closer and more exciting than the duel for the overall rally lead.
Skoda’s Pontus Tidemand began the day with a 25.6 second lead over M-Sport’s Éric Camilli.
However at the end of the first stage that gap had shrunk to just 6.3 seconds, as Camilli sat a hat-trick of fastest stage times.
He ended the morning loop in the category lead but only by 1.1 seconds.
The Frenchman was understandably very happy with his work, yet Tidemand, on his first visit to Rally Mexico, vowed to strike back.
He went on to win all three of the Leon spectator stages and successfully regained the lead and ending the day with a 2 second lead.
Behind them, local hero Benito Guerra Jr slipped back from the charging leaders, his cause not helped by a spin and puncture.
Guerra ended the day in third but six minutes behind Camilli.