Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen will make one final attempt at closing the gap to the dominant Citroens on the second afternoon of Rally Mexico.
The factory Fords have suffered another miserable loop of stages on the Leon-based event, failing to gain on the C4 WRCs ahead, despite running in a better position on the road. Hirvonen said the team would take one final throw of the dice by fitting the Focus RS WRC 09s with stiffer suspension for this afternoon's five stages.
"There's nothing much to talk about here," said Hirvonen, who started the day 1m31.5s off the lead and arrived back in service having gained precisely half a second. "I had a puncture on the left-rear for the last 15 kilometers of the second stage, which didn't help. The tire didn't come off the rim, but the tire was empty.
"There's not much we can do, we'll go stiffer this afternoon, that's about all that's left in the setup changes. But we're not going to stop trying."
Hirvonen and his teammate Jari-Matti Latvala both moved up one place, to fifth and fourth respectively, when Dani Sordo broke the steering on his C4 WRC. But Latvala dropped 18 seconds to rally leader Loeb through the morning.
"It's very frustrating," said the Finn. "Very frustrating. I don't know what is the answer. The Citroen is usually quicker than our car, except for two years ago. I think we were ahead of Citroen at that time, our dampers worked better with the new tire in 2008, but now it's tough. They have a different engine and gearbox to us, maybe it's that. We don't know."
Team principal Malcolm Wilson pointed to Henning Solberg's performance through the morning, when the Stobart Ford driver was just 3.8 seconds down on rally leader Loeb on SS11 and 4.1sec on the following stage – as evidence the car was not the whole problem.
"And don't forget," Wilson said, "Henning is driving a 2008 car. He ran stiffer suspension this morning, that's made a difference, and we're going to fit that to the [factory] cars this afternoon.
"Our boys aren't doing the business here and we haven't recovered the time we lost yesterday. There's no question that it's hard to pick yourself up after a tricky first day, but at the same time I'm surprised at the times Mikko and Jari have set today."
Wilson added that getting both factory cars to the finish was a priority – particularly after Sordo's retirement from the day.
"We've got to be sensible now," he said. "We need the manufacturers' points."