Sébastien Loeb withstood a determined fightback from Dani Sordo to hold a narrow lead at Rally Guanajuato Mexico at the midpoint of Saturday’s second leg.
After overhauling Sordo in the opening Guanajuatito speed test, Loeb edged further clear in the following Otates. The Spaniard retaliated with second fastest time in the short El Brinco to cut the margin to 2.9sec.
“It’s a good surprise to be in a fight like this. I’m leading this morning but it won’t be easy in the second pass. It will be difficult to maintain the gap because I lost time in the last two stages, but we’ll try to stay in front,” explained the 44-year-old Citroën C3 driver.
A rejuvenated Sordo was buoyed by his El Brinco drive. “The balance of the car was much better. We were struggling with the traction in the slower stages this morning but this was much faster and better. I’m happy to come back a little bit,” he said.
Both must keep a wary eye on Kris Meeke and Sébastien Ogier, tied in third and 15.5sec off Loeb’s pace.
Briton Meeke won Otates in his C3 by 2.4sec from Ogier, before the Frenchman went fastest in El Brinco in a Ford Fiesta to end a strong morning.
“I made some mistakes in here. The car stalled on me braking into a corner and then I ran wide on another corner near the finish. It was a bit scrappy, to be honest,” Meeke said at the end of El Brinco.
Andreas Mikkelsen was a further 49.7sec back in fifth, the Norwegian at a loss to explain his lack of speed. His i20 was more than three minutes clear of team-mate Thierry Neuville, the Belgian resigned to the fact this will not be his weekend after a catalogue of problems.
WRC 2 leader Pontus Tidemand was seventh ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala, the Finn climbing back after retiring yesterday with alternator issues in his Toyota Yaris. Gus Greensmith and Pedro Heller completed the leaderboard.