WRC - Mikkelsen takes Rally Mexico lead as Neuville and Suninen hit trouble | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - Mikkelsen takes Rally Mexico lead as Neuville and Suninen hit trouble

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Rally Mexico - Friday morning

Friday morning's leader on Rally Mexico Andreas Mikkelsen

Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen scored two stage wins from three on Friday morning to lead his WRC rivals on Rally Mexico, though French reigning champion Sébastien Ogier (Citroën) and Mikkelsen’s team-mate from Spain Dani Sordo are only 1.6s and 2.7s behind him.

Rising to 2,700 metres above sea level, the notorious El Chocolate stage of 31.57km – the longest test of the rally - kicked off the morning’s action, consisting of two gravel stages in the mountains surrounding Léon and Guanajuato and a short street stage in the city.

Mikkelsen’s low running order, with several cars ahead sweeping away loose gravel, gave him an opportunity to clock the fastest time through the iconic test. Altough second placed Ogier reeled him in on Ortega, Mikkelsen’s fastest time on the Leon street stage pushed his lead back out to 1.6s.
Dani Sordo put a second Hyundai i20 WRC into the podium positions by holding third place, but it wasn’t all good news for the Korean manufacturer. Its lead driver Thierry Neuville sustained a rear left puncture only five kilometres into El Chocolate, dropping 44.1s to Mikkelsen and falling down to ninth.
The infamous El Chocolate also spelled the end of Teemu Suninen’s hopes, his Ford Fiesta WRC damaged by a front-right impact and left stuck on the edge of the road, pointing nose-first off the edge of a ditch.
Suninen’s team-mate Elfyn Evans is now carrying M-Sport’s hopes alone in fourth place, locked in battle with Toyota’s best placed driver Kris Meeke in fifth. Though he briefly dropped behind on El Chocolate, Evans bounced back to take fourth back from Meeke and build a small 1.5s advantage. Jari-Matti Latvala is sixth, 7.5s off Meeke and only 3.4s up on Lappi behind in seventh place.
Championship leader Ott Tänak struggled for grip as first car on the road and fell to eighth place after El Chocolate. At midday he is 6.1s behind Lappi but has a comfortable 21.7s lead over Neuville, who is still trying to recover from his earlier puncture.
Reigning Race of Champions winner Benito Guerra from Mexico was engaged in a tight battle for tenth place overall and the lead of the FIA WRC 2 category with Bolivian teenager Marco Bulacia Wilkinson.
Wilkinson was fastest on El Chocolate, but a class stage win for Guerra on Ortega promoted him to 10th by a mere 0.1s. That lead was short-lived, with Bulacia Wilkinson taking 0.4s back on Street Stage León to retake the lead in his class and 10th overall.
The only FIA WRC 2 Pro entrant Łukasz Pieniążek is in third place amongst his R5-specification equipped rivals, 32.3s behind Bulacia Wilkinson. Chilean brothers Alberto and Pedro Heller are third and fourth in WRC2, separated by 10s.