Championship leader Yuriy Protasov heads the WRC 2 category after the opening leg of Rally Mexico in which just four of the eight starters completed the day.
After a string of early retirements, the Ukraine driver climbed from fifth to second in his Ford Fiesta R5, before moving ahead of Lorenzo Bertelli near the end of the morning loop.
The two remained closely matched until Bertelli stopped to change a puncture on his Fiesta RRC three stages later. That left Protasov in the clear, and he ended the day with a handsome lead of 4min 21.6sec over the Italian.
Max Rendina lies third in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, 11min 23.3sec off the lead and almost three minutes clear of fellow countryman and Production Cup rival Gianluca Linari.
Ott Tanak led initially in a Fiesta R5 but the pre-rally favourite retired after crashing heavily in the daunting 44.03km El Chocolate stage when he turned right and the road went left.
Nicolas Fuchs retired from second in the same stage after breaking a suspension arm and Quentin Gilbert made it a miserable test for DMACK shod cars when he too retired there after going off and breaking the rear suspension on his Fiesta R5.
Paraguay’s Augusto Bestard completed the retirements when he went out this morning. Guess where? Yep, the El Chocolate stage!