Sebastien Ogier has a 13.2 seconds advantage over Teemu Suninen at the end of Friday on Rally Mexico as several drivers all suffered huge problems.
Toyota’s Ogier took the lead on the first pass through El Chocolate after leapfrogging Ott Tänak and didn’t look back, gradually increasing his lead throughout the remainder of the day.
Defending champion Tänak had a mixed day to say the least – he dropped over 45 seconds on the second stage of the day, but recovered in fine fashion throughout Friday afternoon to recover to fourth, just 0.2 seconds behind championship leader Elfyn Evans.
Evans retook third on the last stage of the day from the Estonian, although the pair are over 33 seconds behind leader Ogier with Toyota teammate Kalle Rovanperä just 2.3 seconds further adrift in fifth.
Although Suninen is a fine second for M-Sport Ford after Friday, the sister car of Esapekka Lappi somewhat overshadows his performance.
The Finn had completed the second El Chocolate stage after lunchtime service, but his car dramatically caught fire at the end of the stage.
Despite his and the fire crews best efforts, Lappi was forced to quickly drive the car away from the finish line and leave the burning wreck in a much safer position for everyone involved before leaping out. The car was destroyed.
Despite Tanak’s comeback, Hyundai had a day to forget as both Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville hit problems.
Spaniard Sordo, who had been tipped as a driver to watch in Mexico, retired on the same El Chocoolate test as Lappi, while Neuville pulled over and retired with electrical issues on stage nine. Gus Greensmith completes the WRC runners in sixth.
The leading R5 driver is WRC2’s Pontus Tidemand, who has a large 51.1 seconds advantage over river Nikolay Gryazin after winning every stage on Friday. Hyundai teammate Ole Christian Veiby dropped nearly five minutes with brake problems early in the day.
WRC3 in Mexico is being led by youngster Marco Bulacia Wilkinson, who sits 2m:45.5 seconds ahead of nearest challenger Emilio Fernandez.
The teenager’s dominating position was however helped after both Thursday overnight leader Oliver Solberg, who hit a rock and smashed his sump and Alberto Heller, who hit a tree stump, both retired from the event early on Friday.
Ken Block’s return to the WRC also didn’t go to plan; the American retired from the Mexican event on the opening stage of Friday with engine problems with his Ford Escort Cosworth.
Saturday sees nine more stages on Rally Mexico, totalling 133.74km.