Sébastien Ogier increased his lead to a comfortable 60.3sec after dominating today’s third day of Rally Mexico.
The Volkswagen driver reeled off five consecutive stage wins in the hot and dusty mountains near León. His task was eased when Mads Ostberg retired from second with broken suspension, allowing team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala into the runner-up spot.
Ogier’s only moment of drama came in the final few metres of the last stage when he was one of several drivers to hit a large hole. The impact was hard enough to throw his Polo R onto two wheels and knock a tyre partly off the rim.
“It was a big one but it’s OK, we just lost a bit of time,” said the unflappable Frenchman.
After Ostberg’s demise, Latvala focused on preserving his position. He set a string of second fastest times before notching a stage win in the first pass of the León super special.
“I wasn’t in a big competition because that wasn’t necessary. We’re going for the championship and not the rally for the moment,” said the Finn.
Ostberg hit a bank near the end of the day’s opening test. He and co-driver Jonas Andersson made temporary repairs to the broken left upright with ratchet straps and cable ties before removing the left rear driveshaft. Although they reached the start of the following 53km stage, the damage was too great to continue.
Thierry Neuville climbed to third, 4min 37.0sec behind Ogier, and on course for a maiden podium for Hyundai in only the third rally for the i20 car. He overhauled Elfyn Evans this morning and survived a hard impact in a compression with just a smashed windscreen.
Neuville heads the consistent Welshman by 47.0sec.
Evans, on his first appearance here, has refused to be drawn into any battles. His focus is simply on finishing but the tactic could pay off with a career-best result tomorrow.
Martin Prokop and Benito Guerra complete the top six in their Fiesta RS cars, Guerra surviving a heavy collision with a tree this afternoon. Chris Atkinson holds seventh with Mikko Hirvonen, Kris Meeke and WRC 2 leader Yuriy Protasov completing the top 10.
It was another bad day for Andreas Mikkelsen and Robert Kubica. Mikkelsen rolled his Polo R in the second stage and has now completed only three stages in three days. Kubica rolled his Fiesta RS for the second time in two days and the roll cage is too badly damaged for him to restart tomorrow. Mikkelsen will return under Rally 2 rules.
The final leg starts at 07.45. Drivers face four stages covering 80.22km, but the day is all about the marathon Guanajuatito, the longest stage in the event’s history at almost 56km. The rally finishes in León at 14.30.