Dani Sordo holds a small lead over returning nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb after the first full day of Rally Mexico.
Sordo took over the rally lead with wins on Special Stages 3 and 4, the second and third of the day.
The Hyundai driver, who is sharing his ride with Hayden Paddon this year, stretched his lead to 16.6s after SS5 but a decision to run a mix of tyre compounds saw some of that advantage diminished by the end of the day.
“I have been happy with our pace and rhythm today, particularly on the morning loop when we could really set some good times, making the most of our road position,” said Sordo.
“To be leading the rally at the end of the opening day is a great feeling but we know it is very close and we will have a fight on our hands tomorrow.”
Loeb was on the pace all day, winning SS7 and SS8, the latter tied with Ott Tanak, and only once finishing a stage outside the top four.
The Citroen driver, in his first WRC round since the 2015 season-opener, is just 7.2s off the rally lead and could have been closer had he not missed a corner during SS6.
Tanak won the day’s penultimate, Super Special stage to sit third, despite the three Toyota Yarises suffering overheating problems.
The Estonian’s performance was the bright spot for Toyota Gazoo Racing, with Esapekka Lappi crashing out in SS7 and Jari-Matti Latvala experiencing alternator problems towards the end of the day.
Kris Meeke is fourth, having led after winning the day’s opening Duarte-Derramadero stage and again when it was repeated as SS6, but spun twice in the afternoon.
Sebastien Ogier sits fifth after Friday evening, despite being second out on the dusty roads due to his championship position.
The M-Sport Ford driver was helped in his tight battle with Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen, who is 1.5s further back in sixth, by winning the second run through the Autodromo de Leon Super Special (SS10).
Thierry Neuville, winner of Thursday night’s street stage, is now seventh having had to sweep the roads and also contend with a fuel pressure problem and power steering problem in his Hyundai.
Elfyn Evans had a sixth-gear rollover in Ortega (SS4) having hit a bank on the inside of the corner in his M-Sport Ford.
He is out of the rally after co-driver Daniel Barritt suffered concussion and was hospitalised.
His team-mate Teemu Suninen, who won SS5, also had a crash and sits 19th overall.
The tough day means that there are three WRC 2 competitors inside the top 10, with Skoda’s Pontus Tidemand a clear front-runner having topped the class in every stage so far.
Day 3 begins at 0130 AEDT, with two loops of three gravel stages and three asphalt stages totalling 140.35km.
Highlights: Stages 6 to 10
Rally Mexico: After Special Stage 10 (Top 10)
|1||6||Dani Sordo||ESP||Hyundai||i20 WRC||1:47:55.4|
|2||11||Sebastien Loeb||FRA||Citroen||C3 WRC||+7.2|
|3||8||Ott Tanak||EST||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+11.0|
|4||10||Kris Meeke||GBR||Citroen||C3 WRC||+25.0|
|5||1||Sebastien Ogier||FRA||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+30.2|
|6||4||Andreas Mikkelsen||NOR||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+31.7|
|7||5||Thierry Neuville||BEL||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+2:01.9|
|8||31||Pontus Tidemand||SWE||Skoda||Fabia R5||WRC2||+5:05.6|
|9||38||Gus Greensmith||GBR||Gus Greensmith||Fiesta R5||WRC2||+8:13.0|
|10||39||Pedro Heller||CHI||Pedro Heller||Fiesta R5||WRC2||+12:33.8|