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.
Ricardo Trivino was second until SS6 when his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X lost its brakes. He returned to service fourth, 23.1sec behind Fuchs.
Fifth-placed 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.
Subaru Impreza driver Lorenzo Bertelli was sixth after SS7, but feared a piston problem would force his retirement at the midday service halt.