The victory fight at Rally Guanajuato Mexico was turned on its head in Saturday afternoon’s opening speed test as Sébastien Ogier charged into the lead.
Both previous leader Sébastien Loeb and second-placed Dani Sordo dropped time with front left punctures, allowing Ogier to vault from third to first after winning the 30.97km Guanajuatito speed test in his Ford Fiesta.
Hopes of a fairytale return victory for nine-time champion Loeb were dashed when he pulled over to replace his Citroën C3’s wheel after 21.5km. The Frenchman conceded 2min 23sec to his fellow countryman and plunged to fifth.
“It was a stone on the line, on the inside. Nothing really bad and I didn’t think I’d have a puncture for that,” he said.
Sordo fared better. He dropped 30sec to Ogier and slipped from second to third. “There was a small stone at the beginning of the stage. Unfortunately the tyre broke and delaminated close to the end and we did almost the whole stage like this,” said the Hyundai i20 driver.
Kris Meeke admitted he couldn’t match Ogier’s pace but second fastest put the C3 driver just 3.8sec behind Ogier in second overall.
Andreas Mikkelsen climbed to fourth in his i20, almost a minute behind Sordo and a similar margin ahead of Loeb. Team-mate Thierry Neuville had a lucky escape when he slid wide and clouted a soft bank soon after the start. The Belgian remains sixth.