Sébastien Ogier once again extended his Rally México lead as World Rally Champion Ott Tänak made more inroads intoTeemu Suninen’s second place.
Tänak started Saturday in a fierce fight with Elfyn Evans but was again faster than the Welshman by a margin of 2.7 seconds to extend his overall cushion to 9.4s on Derramadero.
It is the M-Sport Fiesta of Suninen that his attentions are set on, though. Suninen gave up another 6.8s to Tänak on SS15, which slashes his advantage to just 6.6s.
“Of course we try to do what we can, I can’t do more than I’m doing at the moment,” said Tänak.
Suninen admitted he is “feeling pretty OK” but believed his driving could be better, looking less relaxed at stage ends compared to Friday.
Ogier lost 6.1s to stage winner Tänak on Derramadero but this was attributed to a fear of punctures. He was still quicker than Suninen in second though, so his lead stands at 28.3s with Tänak 34.9s behind.
“In this one to be honest I took it a bit easy, especially at the start there were a lot of rocks,” Ogier said. “I was worried about punctures so I took it carefully.
Ogier’s team-mate Evans however was “trying, but it’s difficult with the road evolving and now we’ve ended up so early on the road”. The world championship leader remains in fourth.
Thierry Neuville overcooked a sweeping left-hander thatfortunately had an access road on corner entry, so escaped without major incident. He and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul had a conversation on the way to the stop line as they altered the pacenote for the next pass of the stage this afternoon.
Neuville has nothing to fight for, however, so didn’t appear too stressed, although he dropped a major hint that his delayal at the start of the previous test was indeed a tactical decision to help his team-mate Tänak. When asked what caused his delay, the Belgian dodged the question twice.
“I was a little bit too optimistic so we lost a bit of time but it doesn’t matter for us,” Neuville said. “We are just here to try and bring some manufacturer points and see if we can help the team with Ott.”
Kalle Rovanperä fell further behind team-mate Evans but conceded he “wasn’t pushing”. Nevertheless, he dropped 16.2s to Evans to now sit 38.1s behind in a comfortable fifth place.
Gus Greensmith is just outside the top 10 following what he confirmed was a throttle issue on the previous Alfaro test.
“[We] just had no throttle so the power died,” he explained. “[We] had to change a part and thankfully it fixed it.
“That jump’s pretty big!” he added, referring to a man-made kicker at the end of Derramadero. “It hurts on the landing but good fun.”
R5 cars continue to occupy the remainder of the top 10, with WRC 2 leader Pontus Tidemand sixth and WRC 3 leader Marco Bulacia eighth.
Leading positions after SS15
1 Ogier (Toyota)
2 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +28.3s
3 Tänak (Hyundai) +34.9s
4 Evans (Toyota) +44.3s
5 Rovanperä (Toyota) +1m22.4s
6 Tidemand (Škoda) +7m11.1s
7 Gryazin (Hyundai) +8m8s
8 Bulacia (Citroën) +9m55.9s
9 Veiby (Hyundai) +12m22s
10 Greensmith (M-Sport Ford) +12m56.2s