The Frenchman was fastest on both of the morning’s gravel tests, to more than double his overnight advantage and remain on track to take the Polo R’s maiden WRC victory on gravel tomorrow.
Ogier’s task was made a lot easier on the road section after SS14, when his closest rival, Ford Fiesta RS driver Mads Ostberg, retired with clutch and alternator related problems.
“Okay, It was a great morning for us but I feel a bit disappointed for Mads, he deserved better than that,” said Ogier. “This morning he did a really good job and it’s a shame for him. We were okay, and on the second one I really backed off but still we were fastest. Now we just want to get to the end, avoid all rocks and try to save the car as much as we can. We’ll be very safe.”
Ostberg’s exit promoted Citroen team-leader Mikko Hirvonen to second. But faced with a 1m08.4sec gap to Ogier, the Finn acknowledged there was little chance of catching him through driving alone.
“We started the day with Ostberg in our sights, and I tried to attack in the first stage but when we heard he was out that took the pressure off,” said Hirvonen.
“My pace was okay in the first stage but Ogier was amazingly fast. After we heard about Ostberg we haven’t pushed. Unfortunately now we are concentrating on just holding the place. It’s not so difficult. But of course anything can happen.”
Ford Fiesta RS driver Thierry Neuville began the day fourth but returned to service in third, despite struggling for much of the morning with broken steering. “It’s been a very stressful morning for us,” admitted the Belgian.
“We caught the inside of a wheel in a hairpin on the first stage and opened the steering. It got worse and something broke on the long stage that locked the steering and caused us to spin. After that we had to be neat, with no sliding all the way through.
“I’m very disappointed for Mads, he was doing a great job. But for me of course it’s good and I win one place. Now we need absolutely to finish. We can’t catch the guys ahead,” he added.
Despite more frustration with his own driving, Dani Sordo is fourth, 1m 38sec behind Neuville, while Nasser Al-Attiyah is 39sec further back in fifth.
“Not an easy morning but our times are really good,” said Al-Attiyah. “Still a long way to go and a difficult afternoon ahead I’m sure with lots of rocks.”
Ken Block is sixth in his Hoonigan racing division Fiesta RS, with Benito Guerra seventh in his privateer Citroen DS3.
Chris Atkinson holds eighth in his Citroen DS3 and hopes to make further progress up the leader board. But that won’t be easy from his start position of third on the road. “Okay, the road position is hurting us but the times are pretty good,” he said.
“It’s difficult to push too hard because that takes us off the swept line but we’re about 0.6 sec per kilometre off Mikko’s pace and he has a much better road position. We’re chipping away. Okay, it’s frustrating after our problems yesterday but we can still get some good points if we carry on like this.”
Ford Fiesta RRC driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari continues to dominate the WRC 2 category of Rally Mexico.
The Qatari won both of the morning’s gravel stages to return to Leon after SS7, 3m.22.4sec ahead of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo of local hero Nicolas Fuchs.
After battling with brake problems for much of the morning, Ricardo Trivino is third, 5m 48.5 behind his compatriot in another Group N Mitsubishi.
“Okay, It’s a good lead but it’s been very tough out there,” said Al-Kuwari. “For the whole loop I have a problem with the handbrake and no launch control. But it’s okay, now we are focused on getting to the end. We have to be cautious.”
Armin Kremer, who had been third overnight, retired after his Subaru Impreza succumbed to suspension damage on Saturday’s opening stage.
“There was no way he could continue,” team manager Manfred Stohl told wrc.com. “He hit nothing, there was no mistake from him. We'll fix the car now and he should be fine to restart tomorrow.”
“It’s his first time here and he was second in Group N and third in WRC 2 but the luck wasn't on our side, which is disappointing.”