Ott Tänak has got his Rally México off to a strong start, winning the first two stages on Thursday evening.
As is tradition for Rally México, proceedings got underway with a double 0.7-mile sprint around the streets of Guanajuato with two passes of Street Stage GTO.
Three years away from México meant the crowd came out in their numbers to witness the return of the World Rally Championship, with the ever-present carnival atmosphere greeting the cars.
But it was no carnival for the drivers, who faced a tough test to start the rally with tight turns and narrow streets making for a tricky challenge.
Tänak set the benchmark time on SS1 to go quickest overall by 0.8 seconds over Kalle Rovanperä, with Esapekka Lappi third.
The times dropped on SS2 as the asphalt rubbered in, and Tänak remained on the pace to end the evening in the overall lead by 1.7s over Rovanperä, as Lappi equalled Rovanperä’s effort to remain third.
“Today was a bit of fun, tomorrow is the job,” said Tänak, “for sure tomorrow is not going to be an easy day, but we need to maximize. Let’s see what tomorrow brings – I have never driven in this car on gravel before.”
Thierry Neuville came through both stages with a good enough run to put him fourth overnight.
Sébastien Ogier looked like he was on for the fastest time of SS1 but could only muster seventh, but he improved on that on SS2, meaning he sits fifth overnight.
“I feel good, the real rally starts tomorrow,” he said. “Tonight was about staying away from the curbs.”
The Toyota driver ended 0.5s ahead of team-mate Elfyn Evans, as Dani Sordo sits in seventh.
Pierre-Louis Loubet has never competed in a non-European rally before, and his times on Thursday night’s stages mean he heads into Friday in eighth ahead of Takamoto Katsuta, who is also contesting Rally México for the first time.
Friday’s action gets underway with the first pass of El Chocolate, which overnight leader Tänak will be starting as first on the road as the current world championship leader.