World Rally Championship leader Ott Tänak’s hopes of Rally México victory look over already after a suspected turbo problem on the first full-length stage.
Tänak – who led overnight after winning the first two stages on Thursday evening – started the day first on the road and it was, as expected, a case of cleaning the surface for the drivers behind.
Then just over halfway into the first pass of El Chocolate, he was seen driving very slowly before coming to a complete stop and climbing out of the car.
From the onboard camera, Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja were seen looking under the hood to fix what looked like a loose turbo pipe.
The M-Sport driver was able to get back on the move, albeit at a much lower speed than he would have liked – losing nearly eight minutes by the time he got his Ford Puma Rally1 to the end.
“There is a turbo in the car, but it’s just dead,” he explained.
M-Sport’s day continued to get worse, when Pierre-Louis Loubet hit a large rock, putting him out of the running completely.
His car was stricken over the road with Loubet warning the drivers following, including Dani Sordo, to slow down.
Jourdan Serderidis was also seen blocking the stage, putting all three M-Sport Rally1 cars out of contention already.
With Tänak dropping down the order, Rovanperä became the effective road sweeper on the stage and even had a moment not far from the end of SS3 when the left-rear of his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 clipped the side of a rockface.
The reigning champion crossed the finish 12.7s off new leader Esapekka Lappi, saying becoming first on the road made it even more difficult.
“For sure it’s better to have at least one line than nothing,” he said. “It’s going to be quite s**t from now on. It was not so good in the beginning, but now it’s worse.”
With Tänak all but out and Rovanperä first on the road, Lappi now leads Rally México by 1.2s over Sébastien Ogier, who finished the stage in second and just 0.6s off the Hyundai.