Sebastien Loeb is back in the Rally Mexico lead, and has pulled out a 19.7sec margin over Citroen teammate Sebastien Ogier.
The World Rally Champion was always likely to have an edge this morning as Ogier – who ended Friday with a narrow lead – ran first on the road. But on most stages Loeb was only fractionally quicker than Ogier, who found he could minimize the time loss everywhere bar the twisty Duarte stage.
"Even though he's first on the road he's very fast, so it's difficult to make a big difference," said Loeb of Ogier.
The younger Frenchman was pleased to both keep Loeb in sight and not come under any threat from behind, as third-placed Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen fell further off the pace.
"It's good news that we're not losing a lot of time to the Ford guys," said Ogier. "That proves that the DS3 is a very good car on gravel."
Hirvonen was baffled that he had not been able to benefit from what should have been better stage conditions to close on the Citroens. He ended the loop 1m43sec adrift and out of contention for victory.
"Loeb was just going like mad and taking more time out of us, so I'm a bit surprised," said Hirvonen.
Jari-Matti Latvala remains fourth, despite picking up his second puncture of the event close to the end of today's opener Ibarrilla.
Farther back the high attrition rate has continued. Evgeny Novikov's impressive return to the World Rally Championship ended when low oil pressure halted his Stobart Ford after Duarte, Dennis Kuipers rolled his Ferm Ford on Ibarrilla, and Matthew Wilson (Stobart) did not even make it beyond the first road section before hitting additional mechanical problems.
Those retirements plus some spectacular stage times – including two wins – have allowed Petter Solberg to surge from 13th at the start of the day to sixth, and he has a fighting chance of catching brother Henning for fifth at his current pace. The elder Solberg was slowed by a power steering system leak this morning.
Mads Ostberg is back up to seventh in the fourth Stobart entry, ahead of the S2000 contenders. Nasser Al-Attiyah now has a comfortable lead in the category as Ott Tanak retired on SS11.
Having twice had to resort to superally this weekend, Ken Block is 27 minutes behind the leaders, but he continues in 15th place. Although the Monster Ford driver lost more time with an excursion on the Derramadero stage, he has also set some encouraging times, starting the day not far off Ostberg's pace.