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( release, 9/3/2013)  SEBASTIEN Ogier completed the second day of Rally Mexico with a 33 second lead in his Volkswagen Polo R. The Frenchman won seven of the 11 stages on the car’s gravel debut to ease clear of Mads Ostberg’s Ford Fiesta RS.

Ogier held a narrow advantage after the Thursday night opening sprint stages and built on that in Friday’s two longest tests. He won the morning passes of the 21.91km El Cubilete and the 30.57km El Chocolate and repeated the feat this afternoon.

Australia’s Chris Atkinson slipped from sixth overnight to 10th after the day’s action, as a result of time lost repairing broken steering.

Ogier was satisfied with his day’s work, taking command of the second rally in a row for the new Volkswagen-Motorsport team.

“When you think about the road position we had, to lead tonight by more than 20 seconds … well, it’s been a good day,” he said.

“We didn’t expect this. It’s the first time on gravel, but it looks like the car is also good here.”

Ostberg was the only driver to challenge Ogier. The Norwegian won two stages in both the morning and afternoon loops, despite never feeling at ease in the other tests.

“It’s been an up and down sort of day,” Ostberg said.

“Difficult to explain, but Ogier has done something very special. We can only be happy with what we have done, but it’s disappointing to lose contact with him.”

Mikko Hirvonen and Thierry Neuville duelled over third place throughout the day, which covered 160.75km, mostly in the rolling mountains east of Leon.

Although the young Belgian reduced the deficit to Hirvonen to just four-tenths of a second, the experienced Finn pulled clear in the El Chocolate test to end 25.1sec ahead in his Citroen DS3.

“It’s been a mixed day,” said Hirvonen. “I don’t know myself why I wasn’t on the pace on all the stages.  Some were good, but on others the speed wasn’t there.”

Neuville was happy with an impressive debut on gravel in the Fiesta RS.

“It was a good day. I couldn’t feel the car in the last long stage because it was so rough. I don’t know the car’s limits and I didn’t want to damage it on the first day,” he said.

Behind the first four drivers, large gaps opened across the rest of the top 10.

A lacklustre Dani Sordo is fifth in the second Citroen Total Abu Dhabi car, 1min 33.0sec behind Neuville, with Nasser Al-Attiyah’s Fiesta RS in sixth, another 44.0sec adrift.

The top 10 is completed by Ken Block, Benito Guerra on his debut in a World Rally Car, Martin Prokop and Chris Atkinson.

After breaking his steering on a rock on SS3, Atkinson repaired the damage on the liaison section before SS4, Las Minas, but he was then 21 minutes late in arriving and earned a 3min 30sec penalty.

The only major retirement was the Polo R of Jari-Matti Latvala who hit a rock in the driving line just 400 metres into the opening stage. The impact broke the front right suspension arm and he will restart tomorrow.

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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