Thierry Neuville has won the first stage of Rally Mexico on the streets of Guanajuato.
Last out of the World Rally Cars, Neuville set the pace in his Hyundai on the 2.53km route, which passes through the city’s historic silver mine tunnels.
He was a relatively sizeable 1.9s faster than Toyota’s Ott Tanak, with Sebastien Ogier 0.1s further back in third, having run slightly wide as he entered the tunnel at the start of the run in his M-Sport Ford.
The Toyotas of Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi rounded out the top five.
“It’s a great start but obviously it’s going to be a difficult weekend,” said Neuville, who will be first on the road on Friday (local time) as championship leader.
“I will try to enjoy it. I’m happy to be here, it’s a great atmosphere.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (Hyundai), 2017 Rally Mexico winner Kris Meeke (Citroen), Dani Sordo (Hyundai), and Elfyn Evans (M-Sport Ford) filled sixth to ninth.
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was 10th-fastest in his first WRC stage since 2015.
The field will leave the cobblestones on Day 2 for six dirt stages and three asphalt sprints totalling 155.15km.
The El Chocolate stage, which will serve as Special Stages 3 and 7, includes the highest altitude section on the calendar at over 2700m above sea level.
Highlights: Stage 1
Rally Mexico: After Special Stage 1 (Top 10)
|1||5||Thierry Neuville||BEL||Hyundai||i20 WRC||2:06.7|
|2||8||Ott Tanak||EST||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+1.9|
|3||1||Sebastien Ogier||FRA||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+2.0|
|4||7||Jari-Matti Latvala||FIN||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+2.5|
|5||9||Esapekka Lappi||FIN||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+2.9|
|6||4||Andreas Mikkelsen||NOR||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+3.2|
|7||10||Kris Meeke||GBR||Citroen||C3 WRC||+3.5|
|8||6||Dani Sordo||ESP||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+4.5|
|9||2||Elfyn Evans||GBR||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+4.6|
|10||11||Sebastien Loeb||FRA||Citroen||C3 WRC||+4.7|