Andreas Mikkelsen held a slender Rally Guanajuato Mexico lead over world champion Sébastien Ogier following a hot and dusty Friday morning in the mountains near León.
Stage info: SS3/4
SS3: Ortega 1, 17.28km
Ortega marks the high point of the WRC season as cars top 2756 metres. Virtually the entire test is among the trees. After an undulating start, the roads narrow before a tight but fast downhill section leads into the finish. Drivers love this one with plenty of fast flowing corners.
SS4: Street Stage León 1, 1.11km
The roads of León’s service park campus host a short and twisty asphalt test aimed at bringing the action to the city’s residents.
Having won today’s opening El Chocolate speed test in his Hyundai i20, Mikkelsen ended the loop with fastest time on the asphalt special stage surrounding the city’s service park to head Ogier by 1.6sec. Dani Sordo was third as the top three were covered by only 2.7sec.
“It’s the positive start we wanted,” said Mikkelsen. “I put a lot of effort into the opening El Chocolate stage to try to get it really perfect. You can always do better but I had a clean run. I was a little slow in Ortega but only lost a couple of seconds. It’s not a comfortable lead, small but nice.”
Ogier prevented a Mikkelsen clean sweep by going fastest in Ortega in his Citroën C3, but the Frenchman remained surprised.
“It’s been difficult,” he admitted. “From third on the road I benefited from the line created by those in front but I didn’t feel comfortable in the car. I had to fight a lot but it seems it was a good fight!”
In temperatures rapidly climbing towards 30°C, Sordo was only 1.1 adrift of Ogier after posting top three times in all three stages.
Britons Elfyn Evans and Kris Meeke battled for fourth all morning. Evans edged ahead of Meeke’s Toyota Yaris in Ortega and claimed another few tenths in the León stage to enter service with a 1.5sec advantage in his Ford Fiesta.
Meeke was happy with his Yaris gravel debut, despite being distracted by dust in the car in the opener.
Jari-Matti Latvala completed the top six in another Yaris, the Finn 3.4sec clear of a disappointed Esapekka Lappi, who admitted to losing vital seconds after sliding wide on several occasions in his C3.
Championship leader Ott Tänak was eighth in a Yaris, the Estonian resigned to his fate as road opener. He was almost 30sec adrift of Mikkelsen, having yielded vital seconds sweeping the loose gravel to create a cleaner line and more grip for those starting behind.
Thierry Neuville was ninth following a slow puncture in the opening El Chocolate test, with WRC 2 leader Marco Bulacia completing the leaderboard.