SEBASTIEN Ogier tops the Rally Mexico leaderboard by 26.1sec after a tough and dramatic opening leg. Mads Ostberg lies second with Jari-Matti Latvala a further 16.4sec behind.
Australia’s Chris Atkinson endured a challenging day in his Hyundai i20.
He struggled through the morning’s opening Los Mexicanos test with reduced power after a switch on the car’s anti-lag system fell off.
Brake problems haunted him through the 44.03km El Chocolate and broken right rear suspension in the 15.59km Las Minas (SS4) left the wheel sticking out at an angle.
Atkinson dropped nearly a minute in comparison to team-mate Thierry Neuville and by the end of the day – after also going off harmlessly in the second pass through the evening’s super special stage, was in eighth overall, more than 6m 30s behind Ogier.
Robert Kubica rolled in the first pass through Friday night’s two super special stages at León’s race circuit.
Kubica wanted to start the second pass but officials prevented him from doing so and he set off to drive back to the León service park. It was not known what penalty he would receive for missing the final stage.
After the stage was restarted, Chris Atkinson went off at exactly the same point. Rather than trying to turn into the bend, the Australian ploughed straight on through a series of bollards.
Fortunately, the bollards were plastic rather than the concrete one that Kubica hit.
“The guys said the tarmac was slippery, there’s oil or something on that one corner. I saw the concrete bollard and went for the plastic ones. I’m glad I did,” he said.
Both Mikko Hirvonen and Kris Meeke fell foul of the final mountain stage in the day’s opening leg.
A stunning performance through the second pass of El Chocolate (SS7) promoted Sébastien Ogier into the lead.
Having won the previous Los Mexicanos stage to close to within 1.2sec of Mads Ostberg, the Frenchman blew everyone away in the longest stage of the day. He was fastest in his Volkswagen Polo R and 14.9sec up on Ostberg.
By contrast, Andreas Mikkelsen’s Rally Mexico debut proved a brief one when the Norwegian’s Volkswagen Polo R retired midway through El Chocolate (SS3) with broken suspension. His Volkswagen team hopes he will restart on Saturday under Rally 2 regulations.