Sordo Leads in Mexico from Charging Loeb

All the pre-rally conjecture and informed speculation regarding Nine-time world champion Sebastien Loebs WRC return and likely pace was put into perspective as the Frenchman hit the gound running and secured his first stage victory since Monte Carlo in 2015 by setting the fastest time on SS7! He then repeated the win on his second pass through this stage and in doing so, jumped ahead of both his Citroen team-mate Kris Meeke - who spun on both SS7 and SS8 - and Ott Tanak, to lie just 7.5s off rally-leader Sordo heading into day two. Sordo had seen his lead reduced to just under eight seconds as returnee Loeb claimed the two stage wins.

However, Rally Mexico's grueling stages tested the entire WRC field, with a number of leading runners hitting trouble. Elfyn Evans withdrew after co-driver Daniel Barritt suffered a concussion in a high-speed accident on the first run of Ortega. The M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC was driveable after the sizeable incident but the pair pulled out on safety grounds. Toyota endured a miserable day despite Tanak taking the fight to Loeb and Sordo with victory on the SS9 superspecial as night fell. High engine temperatures forced the team to switch off its Anti-Lag System (ALS), resulting in a significant loss in power for its drivers.

Esapekka Lappi had an off on SS7 and failed to complete the stage while team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala fared little better, retiring on the road section after his alternator failed following SS8. Latvala will return for Saturday's stages. There was also drama for championship leader Thierry Neuville who suffered a loss of fuel pressure in his Hyundai i20 prior to SS5, the Leon street stage. Neuville tried to remedy the issue by opening the door to gain access to the fuel bypass valve behind his seat, but the door slammed shut on the Belgian's arm, causing bruising. A further loss of power steering on SS8 means Neuville lies in eighth place and faces an early starting position on day two.

Out front Sordo - running 10th on the road - continued to put in fast stages times to extend his advantage over first Meeke and then Tanak. Loeb and Tanak's stage wins bring them to within 7.5s and 11s respectively of the Hyundai driver.

Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen were in a fight of their own in the afternoon, with the pair swapping fifth and sixth positions on three successive stages between SS6 and SS8. Ogier, courtesy of his SS10 win at the Leon Autodromo, holds a 1.5s lead over the Norwegian. With Evans already out and the team's third driver Teemu Suninen also crashing on SS7, Ogier is M-Sport's only realistic chance of points from Mexico.

In WRC2, Swede Pontus Tidemand made the most of problems for almost all his rivals and holds a 3m38.3s lead over British privateer Guss Greensmith in second.

Leading positions after SS10
Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Dani Sordo, C.del Barrio Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 1h47m55.4s
2 Sebastien Loeb, D.Elena Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 7.2s
3 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 11.0s
4 Kris Meeke, P.Nagle Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 25.0s
5 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport Ford WRT 30.2s
6 Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 31.7s
7 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 2m01.9s
8 Pontus Tidemand, J.Andersson Skoda Motorsport 5m05.6s
9 Marco Bulacia Wilkinson, F.Mussano Ford 12m41.5s

10th March, 2018