The eight-time world champion, competing in a partial WRC campaign, assumed the lead on Saturday morning after Hyundai rival Esapekka Lappi crashed out on stage 11.
Once ahead, Ogier was able to extend his advantage to 35.8s over Toyota’s team-mate Evans, who came under attack from Hyundai’s Neuville. Evans managed to hang onto to second, albeit with a slender 4.3s margin.
World champion Kalle Rovanpera will head into Sunday in a comfortable fourth (+1m34.0s) ahead of Hyundai’s Dani Sordo (+2m21.2), while WRC2 driver Gus Greensmith ended the day in sixth overall to lead the second tier class.
M-Sport’s Ott Tanak climbed to fringes of the points paying position in 11th after a positive outing in the Ford Puma that included two stage wins.
Officials were forced to cancel the afternoon’s first stage, a second pass through Ibarrilla due to the damage caused following Lappi’s crash on Saturday morning.
That meant crews headed straight to stage 16, El Mosquito, where Ogier delivered a mesmerising performance to further extend his rally lead.
The Toyota driver blew away the opposition on the 22.56km test to reach the stage end a staggering 8.1s faster than nearest rival Neuville. The time surprised the six-time Rally Mexico winner, who increased his lead to 36.8s.
“I think it’s all down to tyre management because I felt a lot that the tyre was dropping towards the end. I am anyway very smooth with that so I believe they suffered more than me,” said Ogier.
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport
Neuville had laid down an impressive benchmark that was 0.2s faster than Evans, as the battle for second overall between the pair raged on.
Rovanpera was still unable to challenge the top of the leaderboard thanks to his road position and compromised tyre choice, but was only 0.7s slower than Evans.
Neuville continued his pursuit of second by winning stage 17 with a 2.6s margin over Evans, to bring the gap between the pair down to 5.9s.
Ogier didn’t repeat the blistering display on the previous stage but maintained a strong pace to finish 3.1s behind Neuville.
Tanak was fourth fastest as the Estonian began to show front running running speed from the M-Sport Ford. His run through the stage was aggressive and included a run in with an inflatable sponsor arch.
Rovanpera’s pass was eventful too with the Finn suffering a spin in a slow section,…
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