Rally Mexico – Friday morning
Toyota driver Sébastien Ogier has made a strong start to his bid for a sixth Rally Mexico victory, leading at the end of Friday morning as Hyundai drivers Ott Tänak and Dani Sordo both suffered early setbacks.
After two street stages through Guanajuato city on Thursday evening, the drivers faced the first true gravel action of the season with a trio of stages in the surrounding mountains, plus a new short test in Parque Bicentenario.
In his first appearance of 2020, Sordo was expected to be a strong contender with a favourable road position, but he was forced to stop in the morning’s first stage – El Chocolate – after a radiator pipe came loose, causing him to drop over five minutes.
Team-mate Ott Tänak – running sixth on the road as he plays catch-up in the championship following his crash on Rallye Monte-Carlo – set an impressive pace in El Chocolate, completing the 31.45 kilometres of stage 10.3 seconds faster than anyone else.
However, the reigning world champion then lost 45.9s to Ogier in SS4 Ortega due to damage at the rear of his car. He and co-driver Martin Järveoja were able to make repairs on the road section, but ended the morning loop in seventh.
With Tänak’s issues, Ogier claimed the lead with the fastest time in Ortega, and took a lead of 9.7 seconds back to León for the midday service.
Teemu Suninen has made an impressive start in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta to sit in second place, but Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville is on his heels just 0.6s behind after setting the fastest time in Parque Bicentenario.
Suninen’s team-mate Esapekka Lappi is fourth in front of championship leader Elfyn Evans, who is running first on the road on a Friday for the first time. His fellow Toyota driver Kalle Rovanperä occupies sixth place, forced to take caution through much of the morning following a slow puncture in SS3.
Behind Tänak sits the third M-Sport driver Gus Greensmith, while Pontus Tidemand leads FIA WRC2 in ninth, 23.4s in front of category rival Nikolay Gryazin. Marco Bulacia is just eight seconds further back in 11th and leading FIA WRC3.