Rally Mexico: Citroen's Meeke adds to advantage on Saturday morning
|Saturday, March 11th 2017, 18:29 GMT|
Citroen's Kris Meeke extended his Rally Mexico lead on Saturday's morning loop as teams continued get to grips with 2017 World Rally Championship cars on gravel for the first time.
Meeke - who has crashed out of the Monte Carlo and Sweden Rallies this year - made the most of a favourable road position to put his Citroen into the lead on Friday, and added to that advantage on Saturday.
The Briton didn't win any of three stages on Saturday's morning loop, but did register a top-three time on each occasion and heads into the afternoon with a 23.5s lead at the front of the field.
Sebastien Ogier held on to second in the order and confirmed that he would not go "all or nothing" to hunt down Northern Irishman Meeke for the victory.
A small moment at the end of SS10 forced some cosmetic repairs but aside from that, Ogier's Ford Fiesta WRC was compliant in what he described as a "good" morning loop.
Thierry Neuville remains third as he looks to put his bad luck to bed in Mexico after retiring from the first two events of the year.
The Belgian dropped away from the leading duo on Saturday morning, but retains a comfortable third in the lead Hyundai i20.
Ogier's team-mate Ott Tanak holds a similarly comfortable fourth, too far behind to challenge for the podium but some way clear of fifth place.
The Estonian was unhappy with the set up of his car, but enjoyed a trouble-free start to the day, having been one of a number of cars to suffered overheating issues on Friday.
Tanak is comfortable in fourth largely as a result of problems for other drivers behind him in the order.
Hayden Paddon stole fifth from Juho Hanninen during the loop, Finn Hanninen having vomitted at the end of SS11 such was his illness in the leading Toyota Yaris.
Tanak had earlier jumped Hanninen on the first stage of the day.
Championship leader Jari-Matti Latvala lost two minutes sweeping the road on Friday, but is only 42s behind team-mate Hanninen in seventh and continues to reel his compatriot in.
Latvala was only two seconds faster than Hanninen on the last stage of the loop, but he hit a rock and had a left rear puncture in the test.
With WRC2 drivers interloping, Elfyn Evans was the final car in the top 10.
Entering the event with a five minute penalty for changing an engine after shakedown, Evans scored a fastest stage time on Friday in his DMACK-shod Ford Fiesta before his efforts to claw back time were curtailed when he had to run first on the road instead of Lorenzo Bertelli, who was late out of service.
Dani Sordo was the fastest man of all on Saturday morning, but remains well outside the top 10 as a legacy of a misfire on Friday night.
The Spaniard was quickest on SS9 and 10 before taking fourth fastest on the short El Brinco, but remains 12th as a result of a five-minute penalty he received for not complete Friday night's penultimate stage.
Eric Camilli leads WRC2 and is eigth overall, ahead of Rally Sweden class winner Pontus Tidemand.
Frenchman Camilli took more than 20s out of Tidemand on the opening stage of the loop before moving into the class lead on El Brinco, SS11, and heads the Swede by 1.1s.