Meeke edges closer to Rally Mexico success
Citroen driver Kris Meeke furthered his Rally Mexico lead on the Saturday afternoon loop, while a spin cost four-time World Rally champion Sebastien Ogier ground in the lead battle.
M-Sport Fiesta driver Ogier had taken some time out of leader Meeke on the afternoon's opening stage, but lost 10 seconds on SS13 with the spin.
As a result, Meeke increased his lead in his C3 to 33.4 seconds with one superspecial remaining this evening before Sunday's final stages.
The lead duo opted for slightly different tyre strategies on the afternoon loop, with Meeke taking four hard tyres and two softs and Ogier a split of two hard and three soft Michelins.
The hards held up better over the run and did not lose as much tread, meaning they were competitive against the drivers on softs whose tyres went off and lost tread depth.
However, Ogier still would have closed the gap to Meeke had he not suffered the spin.
The reigning champion had refused to push too hard in his pursuit of Meeke, though, and appeared content to settle for another strong haul of points - which would allow the Rally Monte Carlo winner to retake the championship lead.
Thierry Neuville was one of those who suffered from tyre degradation and holds third in his Hyundai i20, the Belgian trailing Ogier by 39.5s with three stages to go.
Ott Tanak seems destined for fourth, which would mark his first finish off the podium in 2017.
Tanak struggled to catch Neuville on Saturday's stages but did seem happier in the afternoon and took a stage win, after set-up maladies affected his morning running.
Hayden Paddon - like Hyundai team-mate Neuville - suffered on his tyres and heads the two Toyota Yaris's in fifth.
Jari-Matti Latvala admitted the event has become an extended test for Toyota, which is experimenting with engine settings and tyres, and currently occupies sixth.
Juho Hanninen had been suffering with illness but felt better in the afternoon and is on course to score his first overall classification points of the season, holding seventh overnight in his sister Yaris.
Dani Sordo's supreme pace on Saturday's morning stages dried up somewhat, but the Spaniard does find himself back in the points after a 10-minute penalty levied against him by Rally Mexico organisers for not completing Friday's special stage was overturned.
He now lies eighth, 45s behind Hanninen.
Elfyn Evans continued with one hand behind his back with a pre-event five-minute penalty for an engine change, but has worked his way into ninth place in his DMACK-shod Ford Fiesta.
WRC2 leader Pontus Tidemand rounded out the top 10, the Swede retaking the class lead on the last stage of the loop.
Tidemand had fallen behind the M-Sport Fiesta R5 of Eric Camilli early on Saturday morning, but now heads the class once more with a 0.6s advantage.
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER SS16: