Sebastien Loeb holds a narrow lead over Sebastien Ogier as Citroens dominate the opening day of Rally Mexico.
Ford knew it would pay the price for its Swedish podium sweep when it got to Mexico and had to run first on the dusty roads – and sure enough Sweden winner Mikko Hirvonen is a distant fourth at present, behind Citroen trio Loeb, Ogier and Petter Solberg.
Making things even harder for Ford, its second works driver Jari-Matti Latvala fell from fourth to ninth when a puncture cost him two minutes on SS4, El Cubliete, and Sweden hero Mads Ostberg is even further adrift, the Stobart Ford dropping four minutes when he had to change a punctured tire on the afternoon's second stage, Ortega, leaving him 15th at the end of the loop.
Up front, Ogier won the first two stages of the afternoon to take an early lead, before Loeb moved ahead by 0.7sec thanks to wins on El Cubliete and the Leon street stage. Solberg has been unable to keep up with the two works Citroen drivers and is 18.4sec off the lead, but 22.5sec ahead of Hirvonen.
Sensible starts from Stobart's Matthew Wilson and returnee Evgeny Novikov mean they are already up to fifth and sixth, with their teammate Henning Solberg unhappy with his setup in seventh, ahead of Ferm Ford driver Dennis Kuipers.
Munchi's Ford driver Federico Villagra had to stop with a damaged car on today's first stage, though he will be back under the superally system tomorrow.
Ken Block is also running under superally already having picked up a 10-minute penalty for the electrical glitch that forced him to miss last night's superspecial. The Monster Ford started the day close to Wilson and Novikov's pace, but requires substantial attrition ahead to get near the points as he currently runs 18th.
S2000 class leader Nasser Al-Attiyah completes the overall top 10. Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Juho Hanninen looked set to lead this class as he set a rapid pace through the first part of Alfaro, only to then spin and break reverse gear as he tried to rejoin, costing him two minutes.
Leading positions after SS5:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 43m24.0s
2. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 0.7s
3. Petter Solberg Solberg Citroen + 18.4s
4. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 40.9s
5. Matthew Wilson Stobart Ford + 1m38.0s
6. Evgeny Novikov Stobart Ford + 1m43.4s
7. Henning Solberg Stobart Ford + 1m56.5s
8. Dennis Kuipers Ferm Ford + 2m31.7s
9. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 2m40.2s
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah Barwa Ford + 2m40.9s