Doggy dodging Ogier takes Rally Mexico lead as Loeb punctures

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León (Mexico) (AFP)

Five-time world champion Sebastien Ogier flirted with disaster when avoiding a dead dog on his way to seizing control of the Rally of Mexico on Saturday.

But a puncture deflated the hopes of his French compatriot Sebastien Loeb.

Loeb, a nine-time former champion, is competing in three legs of the 2018 championship, and he was leading the way until the mishap to his Citroen C3 dropped him to fifth.

After Saturday's third day Loeb was lying 2min 19sec behind Ogier, who reeled off wins in five of the day's six special stages.

Ogier himself also had a near miss on the hazardous Mexican roads.

"There was a dead dog, and another that seemed to be watching over him. I had to break sharply and ended up half in the ditch to avoid them," he recounted.

"My wife is so protective over animals that I wouldn't have scored any points with her if I hadn't avoided him, but it almost cost us dear."

The Ford Fiesta driver, who was fifth overnight, is 35.9sec clear of Loeb's British teammate Kris Meeke with Dani Sordi's Hyundai looming large in his wing mirror in third.

Ogier took the lead after stage 14 when Loeb suffered his Mexican misfortune, the ace from Alsace forced to get out of his car to change the front left tyre.

"That's rallying," Loeb shrugged. "Everyone probably drove over the same stone, but it was only us who got a puncture."

At that point, Loeb had a 12sec cushion over overnight leader Dani Sordo -- who also suffered a damaged tyre -- in his first road rally since 2013.

"To be leading was more than I could have hoped for, it's a pity, we were all set for a great battle," added the 44-year-old, who in January took part in the Dakar Rally in South America.

Ott Tanak also encountered a race-ending problem. The Estonian, third after Friday's action, had to retire after mechanical problems on his Toyota.

Barring disaster Ogier is set to take over the lead in the championship after Sunday's three specials with current pacesetter Thierry Neuville struggling in sixth.