Sebastien Ogier claimed four stage wins on Saturday afternoon to extend his Rally Mexico lead to more than 35 seconds heading into the final leg on Sunday.
The reigning World Rally champion began the day in fifth but made progress thanks to an impressive pace and some good fortune as others hit trouble.
Friday leaders Dani Sordo and Sebastien Loeb both suffered punctures on SS14, the second run of Guanajuatito, which dropped the pair out of realistic contention.
Loeb had to stop to replace his front left tyre during the stage, after hitting a rock midway through, and lost more than two minutes to Ogier.
Sordo fared marginally better, ceding 30 seconds, and the Spaniard is now third behind Citroen’s Kris Meeke.
Errant stones first halted Loeb’s Citroen C3 as the Frenchman looked set to build on his overall lead, before Sordo’s Hyundai also fell foul of the precariously placed obstacles on the stage.
Ogier’s progress up the order began earlier in the opening pass through Guanajuatito when Toyota’s Ott Tanak suffered a turbo failure and was forced to retire for the day.
The Estonian had been the only Yaris driver still in the hunt for a podium after engine overheating issues dogged team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi on Friday.
Having jumped ahead of Loeb and Sordo following their misfortunes, Ogier then catapulted his M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC into the lead after Meeke endured a stall on SS13 (El Brinco) and a spin on SS15 (Otates 2).
Meeke exchanged stage wins with Sordo in the Super Special at the Leon Autodroma and remains Ogier’s nearest rival in second place, albeit 35.9s back with just three stages remaining.
Despite Sordo’s strong showing, Hyundai had another disappointing day with both Andreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville lacking pace.
First on the road all day, Neuville lost another minutes on the morning’s opening stage when his car cut out following a water splash.
The Belgian then suffered two punctures of his own but is set to pick up points for fifth, one place behind Mikkelsen.
|1||Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia||M-Sport Ford WRT||Ford||3h25m03.1s|
|2||Kris Meeke, P.Nagle||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen||35.9s|
|3||Dani Sordo, C.del Barrio||Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT||Hyundai||46.8s|
|4||Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager||Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT||Hyundai||1m28.4s|
|5||Sebastien Loeb, D.Elena||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen||2m19.7s|
|6||Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul||Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT||Hyundai||4m44.6s|
|7||Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||15m59.6s|
|8||Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula||M-Sport Ford WRT||Ford||32m39.0s|