Sébastien Ogier rocketed into the lead of Rally Guanajuato México with a committed drive on Friday morning’s challenging gravel stages.
The Toyota Yaris pilot inherited the top spot after setting the fastest time through the 17.24km Ortega speed test and was able to maintain his position amongst stiff competition. He arrived at the mid-leg service in Leon with a 9.7sec lead over M-Sport Ford driver Teemu Suninen.
“So far, so good. It’s never easy here as there are always rocks everywhere. It’s difficult as the grip is very low and there are things that we can still improve on,” said Ogier.
Ott Tänak had briefly led the rally thanks to a gutsy charge through the opening El Chocolate stage. However, his luck came undone when his Hyundai i20 picked up damage to the rear-right corner in the following test. The Estonian forfeited 45.9sec to the leaders and he ended the morning loop in seventh.
Thierry Neuville was third in another i20. Despite pushing hard, he was unable to match the top times and complained of a lack of grip in the sizzling hot conditions. He trailed Ogier by 10.7sec at service.
Esapekka Lappi was another driver to lament the grip levels on Friday morning. Despite the tricky conditions, the Fiesta man was just 16.6sec adrift of the lead and poised to mount an attack during the afternoon loop. Elfyn Evans rounded out the top-five, just 2.5sec further back from Lappi.
Dani Sordo was unfortunate to hit trouble on the very first stage of the day when a radiator pipe came loose on his i20. He and co-driver Carlos del Barrio lost over five-minutes as they stopped to rectify the problem. Kalle Rovanperä also had his fair share of drama, and was lucky to hold sixth despite a front-left puncture on his Yaris.
Skoda Fabia driver Pontus Tidemand held a commanding 23.4sec lead over Nikolay Gryazin in WRC 2 after the first loop, whilst Ole Christian Veiby hemorrhaged time with brake issues on his i20 Rally 2 car. Bolivian youngster Marco Bulacia Wilkinson led the way in WRC 3.