Located right next to the service park in Leon, the Street Stage is a short tarmac sprint largely comprised of straights and hairpins. Drivers need to keep their driving neat because of the kerbs and lampposts that line the road.
How the action unfolded:
Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier holds the lead of Rally Mexico at the midpoint of Friday’s competition, the Frenchman returning to service in Leon after SS7 with a 12.9 sec advantage over Ford Fiesta driver Mads Ostberg.
Ogier began today’s second leg in fourth after Thursday night’s two sprint tests, but converted this into a 5.3sec lead after a convincing stage win on the opening El Cubilete.
The Polo R driver lost the position on the next stage, however, when a fastest time from Ostberg moved him up to first. Ostberg took another stage win on SS5, but Ogier responded on the 30km El Chocolate test, completing it 13.7sec quicker than his rival to retake the lead.
The Frenchman rounded off the morning loop with a win on the short Street Stage in Leon. “Okay, we haven’t had the best road position but we’re leading the rally now, so we can be happy with that,” said Ogier.
“Considering the grip we had we have done a good job. Mads is going really well, he’s just behind. We have to work hard this afternoon to keep him there.”
Ostberg wasn’t always comfortable with the handling of his Fiesta RS but remains confident that he can catch Ogier. “I’ve been struggling with the set-up all the way but the times were good,” he said.
“It’s difficult to have a car that works well on both fast and slow corners here. We had a good run on the long one [SS6] but near the end I hit a rock and thought I had a puncture because the car felt strange. I slowed a bit but I think it was just the tyres overheating.
“I’m happy that we are still in the fight, we’ll refill our water bottle now and get out there again. I think I can match Ogier’s pace. After what we have done this morning it’s definitely possible,” he added.
Mikko Hirvonen is third, 5.3sec behind Ostberg in his Citroen DS3. The Finn was frustrated with his driving on Friday’s opener but improved as the day progressed and was Ogier’s closest rival on the El Chocolate stage.
Fiesta RS driver Thierry Neuville is fourth, 7.9sec behind Hirvonen and satisfied with his morning’s work. Without the benefit of split times in his car, the Belgian felt he had judged his pace well - with just one exception: “I lost 13 seconds on Las Minas [SS4] because I thought I needed to save my tyres more than I did,” he explained. “But we’re still in the fight with Mikko and Mads. We can go faster, but I don’t know if we should go faster…”
A disappointed Dani Sordo is fifth, 39sec adrift of Neuville and at a loss to explain how his Citroen team-mate Hirvonen was 30-seconds quicker than him through SS6.
Nasser Al Attiyah is sixth, with Ken Block seventh in his Hoonigan Racing Division Fiesta RS. “My last event was Finland last year, so it’s taken me a while to get familiar with the car again,” said Block. “I’m driving a bit too much sideways because of the loose stuff on the road, but I’m hoping the conditions will be cleaner for the repeat.”
Reigning P-WRC champion Benito Guerra is eighth on his first event in a World Rally Car. “I’m learning a lot and I’m satisfied with my first morning in the Citroen,” he said. “I’m still aiming to be the leading private driver here, and that means we now have Ken Block in our sights. We’re going to try to be progressive in our learning and increase our speed as we go on.”
After the opening seven stages, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari holds a healthy 1m.49.7sec lead of the WRC 2 category
Making his season debut in Mexico, the Qatari driver took the lead on Thursday night’s Super Special and has held it ever since, winning all but one of the tests so far in his state-of-the-art Ford Fiesta RRC.
Behind him, the fight is between a field of Group N specification cars. Armin Kremer is second, at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRX, with Nicolas Fuchs 9.1sec further back in third in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.
Yuriy Protasov was third overnight but dropped more than three minutes on Friday’s opener with a left-hand front puncture. He lost more time on SS6 when his Subaru’s power steering failed.