Esapekka Lappi crashed out of the Rally México lead on the first stage of Saturday morning, after leading the rally throughout Friday and looking like he had Sébastien Ogier under control.
The incident occurred as Lappi lost the rear of his Hyundai, sending him into a 180 degree spin and into a telegraph pole.
The impact destroyed the back of his car and led to a fire at the front, causing a red flag on the stage.
Ogier now leads by 27.3s over Elfyn Evans, and said it was a “shame” that the fight for the lead had dramatically ended.
“That’s a shame. I always enjoy the fight and yesterday he was really having amazing speed,” Ogier said, “so it’s a big shame.”
Saturday makes up the longest leg of the rally, with 125.5 miles worth of stages ready for the drivers to overcome.
The morning began with the first pass of Ibarrilla, 9.2 miles of fast, wide sections at the start, before it narrows down towards the stage end.
In the fight that was gradually unfolding for third through yesterday which has now become a battle for second between Evans and Thierry Neuville, it was the Toyota driver who took the early advantage, growing his cushion to 11.6s.
Kalle Rovanperä continues to run in a lonely spot – now fourth – ahead of Dani Sordo, despite a moment towards the stage end where the rear of his GR Yaris Rally1 stepped out more than he would have liked.
“It was just the last junction, we went a bit wide,” he said. “No big drama. I tried to have a clean run but there are a lot of grip changes in here and it was not easy.”
Ott Tänak was unhappy with the feeling of his Ford Puma Rally1 all day Friday after suffering a turbo failure on the first pass of El Chocolate, which was fixed at the midday service.
But on the afternoon’s stages he complained of another problem with the car, and despite it being fixed this morning he said the confidence still isn’t there.
“It’s quite low grip. Yesterday afternoon’s issue seems to be fixed, but I can’t drive the car fast at the moment,” he explained.
“It’s not working for me and I am really struggling, but okay, we will try to learn.”
He is 14 minutes from the front and began the day classified 17th.
Pierre-Louis Loubet, Takamoto Katsuta and Jourdan Serderidis all returned to action under super-rally regulations following their Friday morning crashes.
Loubet, who didn’t complete a stage yesterday after suffering damage on SS3, said the rest of the weekend will be reserved purely to gain experience on a rally he’s never contested before.
“After yesterday it’s important to take maximum experience,” he said. “With the road conditions and our position on the road it was very tricky, but we will do our best.”