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Loeb leads as Citroen takes charge

Sebastien Loeb, Citroen, Mexico 2011Sebastien Loeb holds a narrow lead over Sebastien Ogier as Citroens dominate the opening day of Rally Mexico.

Ford knew it would pay the price for its Swedish podium sweep when it got to Mexico and had to run first on the dusty roads - and sure enough Sweden winner Mikko Hirvonen is a distant fourth at present, behind Citroen trio Loeb, Ogier and Petter Solberg.

Making things even harder for Ford, its second works driver Jari-Matti Latvala fell from fourth to ninth when a puncture cost him two minutes on SS4, El Cubliete, and Sweden hero Mads Ostberg is even further adrift - the Stobart Ford dropping four minutes when he had to change a punctured tyre on the afternoon's second stage, Ortega, leaving him 15th at the end of the loop.

Up front, Ogier won the first two stages of the afternoon to take an early lead, before Loeb moved ahead by 0.7 seconds thanks to wins on El Cubliete and the Leon street stage.

Solberg has been unable to keep up with the two works Citroen drivers and is 18.4s off the lead, but 22.5s ahead of Hirvonen.

Sensible starts from Stobart's Matthew Wilson and returnee Evgeny Novikov mean they are already up to fifth and sixth, with their team-mate Henning Solberg unhappy with his set-up in seventh, ahead of Ferm Ford driver Dennis Kuipers.

Munchi's Ford driver Federico Villagra had to stop with a damaged car on today's first stage, though he will be back under the superally system tomorrow.

Ken Block is also running under superally already having picked up a 10-minute penalty for the electrical glitch that forced him to miss last night's superspecial. The Monster Ford started the day close to Wilson and Novikov's pace, but requires substantial attrition ahead to get near the points as he currently runs 18th.

S2000 class leader Nasser Al-Attiyah currently completes the overall top 10. Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Juho Hanninen looked set to lead this class as he set a rapid pace through the first part of Alfaro, only to then spin and break reverse gear as he tried to rejoin, costing him two minutes.

Leading positions after SS5:

Pos  Driver              Team/Car          Time/Gap
 1.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen           43m24.0s
 2.  Sebastien Ogier     Citroen             + 0.7s
 3.  Petter Solberg      Solberg Citroen    + 18.4s
 4.  Mikko Hirvonen      Ford               + 40.9s
 5.  Matthew Wilson      Stobart Ford     + 1m38.0s
 6.  Evgeny Novikov      Stobart Ford     + 1m43.4s
 7.  Henning Solberg     Stobart Ford     + 1m56.5s
 8.  Dennis Kuipers      Ferm Ford        + 2m31.7s
 9.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford             + 2m40.2s
10.  Nasser Al-Attiyah   Barwa Ford       + 2m40.9s
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