Crash into lake for Ott Tanak halts stage, as Kris Meeke, Hayden Paddon and Robert Kubica all hit trouble.
Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier leads Rally Mexico after a dramatic opening morning, despite declaring this was an event he simply could not win.
Two-time World Champion Ogier is at a huge disadvantage on this rally because he runs first on the road in his Polo WRC for the opening two days, but such was his speed and the misfortunes of those around him, he held the lead right from the start.
“I’m very pleased with this loop – I pushed very hard from this morning,” said Ogier, who was happy with his tyre choices.
The dramas occurred almost straight away today, as Ott Tanak crashed out on SS3 in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta – a big accident that eventually stopped the stage. His car plunged into a lake, but both he and his co-driver escaped before it sank to the bottom.
But it was SS4, the famous El Chocolate stage, that did the most damage. Kris Meeke crashed his Citroen just after he’d set the fastest time on the previous stage.
It wasn’t plain sailing for Hyundai either, as Hayden Paddon removed a rear corner and returning-from-injury teammate Dani Sordo had an issue at the startline of SS4 with a gearbox problem, and his windscreen misted up following a watersplash.
Robert Kubica was only 4s off the lead after SS3, but his strong start to SS4 ended when he stopped in the stage multiple times, and had to keep working on his car to get it going.
Ogier leads by 8.9s over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, who reckons he lost 10s on SS4 by going off near the end of the stage, and teammate Jari-Matti Latvala, who was distraught with his performance to be 15s off Ogier’s pace.
“Unbelievable how slippery it was,” said Latvala after SS4. “It’s really cold here in the mountains, it’s never been so cold in Mexico. Very, very bad driving. Terrible.”
Mads Ostberg runs fourth for Citroen, ahead of Elfyn Evans, who just avoided a couple of cows on SS5 in his M-Sport Fiesta, and the third VW of Andreas Mikkelsen in sixth.
There is now just the very short Leon Street Stage left before the cars head back into the mountains this afternoon.