Esapekka Lappi has responded once again to Sébastien Ogier’s pressure, putting in another stage-winning performance to hold a 3.4 second Rally México lead with two stages remaining on Friday.
Ogier had slashed Lappi’s lead to just 0.3s on SS7, with the Hyundai looking more vulnerable than it had all day.
But that was not the case as the Rally México leader bounced back in fine fashion to hold his largest lead of the day so far after SS8.
“I’ve been driving with the same rhythm all the time to be honest,” said Lappi.
“Trying to be clean, I think here we managed to do it well so the time is OK.
“The car is feeling great so I can enjoy it.”
This second pass of Las Minas will be the last of the day’s long stages, with two more short sprints to come this afternoon.
For reigning champion Kalle Rovanperä that will be a relief, as it means he can focus on starting tomorrow from a more favorable road position rather than being second on the road – where he started today – with the aim of bringing him towards contention for the podium places.
He currently sits fifth overall and now 15.7s off Thierry Neuville.
“It was fine I would say. There is a lot of cleaning but I am sliding a lot with the weight of the two spare wheels,” he surmised.
Neuville is focusing on the Toyota ahead of him rather than the one behind, and despite a slight moment at the end of the stage when his rear-end stepped out, he was able to close in on Elfyn Evans by 2.7s, meaning the overall gap in the battle for third is now 12.5s.
However, all was not well with the Hyundai driver who feared there was something wrong with his i20 N Rally1.
“There’s something strange on the rear, I can’t control the car since the previous stage, probably the damper has been damaged,” he explained. “It feels like the rear is very slippery and not working anymore.
“I’m attacking like hell but just the times are not coming like they should.”
Following a puncture on the previous stage, Dani Sordo sits in sixth and 30.3s from Rovanperä.