Bolivia’s Marco Bulacia held a slender lead in WRC 2 at Rally Guanajuato Mexico after a thrilling back-and-forth battle with home favourite Benito Guerra on Friday.
Eighteen-year-old rising star Bulacia ended the leg 9.8.sec ahead in a Skoda Fabia R5 on his return to the WRC for the first time since last year’s RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España.
Quickest on five of the nine stages, Bulacia took the lead from Pedro Heller on SS2, but then had to fight to regain it after Guerra toppled him by going quickest in SS3.
Back in front after SS4, Bulacia sealed a hat-trick of stage wins in the afternoon to make the position a little more comfortable.
But Guerra was never far behind and after three stage wins himself, the pair stretched ahead of their rivals, leaving third placed Alberto Heller more than 70sec adrift on his Mexico debut in a Ford Fiesta.
Heller's brother, Pedro, is a distant fourth after stopping to make repairs to a front driveshaft and broken steering arm in SS5.
Sole WRC 2 Pro entrant Lukasz Pieniazek failed to complete the day. The Pole crashed early in the repeated Ortega stage (SS6) damaging the front end of his M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5. He is expected to restart on Saturday.
Head to WRC+ to watch All Live from Rally Guanajuato Mexico, including every stage broadcast live, breaking service park news and expert studio analysis.