Len, Mexico - Spanish driver Dani Sordo seized the lead in the Rally of Mexico on Friday but nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb was just seven seconds behind in his comeback race.
Sordo, driving a Hyundai i20 in his first race of the 2018 season, went off from 10th position, closely followed by Loeb in 11th on the stony terrain at 2 700 metres of altitude in the central city of Leon.
Loeb, who is taking part in just three races this season, said: "After six years away, it is good going to be in this position against such strong opposition."
Estonia's Ott Tanak was third in his Toyota, 11sec off the leaders, and Thierry Neuville, the Belgian who heads the world championship standings after the first two races, lay seventh and 2min 1.9sec behind the leader, after the stage.
They avoided the fate of Britain's Elfyn Evans and the Finns Esapekka Lappi, Teemu Suninen-Mikko Markkula and Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota) who were all forced out of the race.
Evans' co-driver Daniel Barritt was taken to hospital suffering from concussion after their Ford Fiesta WRC rolled at high-speed.
Standings in the Rally of Mexico after Friday's second stage:
1. Dani Sordo-Carlos del Barrio (ESP/Hyundai i20) 1hr 47min 55.4sec, 2. Sebastien Loeb-Daniel Elena (FRA-MON/Citroen C3) at 7.2sec, 3. Ott Tanak-Martin Jarveoja (EST/Toyota Yaris) 11.0, 4. Kris Meeke-Paul Nagle (GBR-IRL/Citroen C3) 25.0, 5. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Ford Fiesta) 30.2, 6. Andreas Mikkelsen-Anders Jaeger (NOR/Hyundai i20) 31.7, 7. Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai i20) 02:01.9, 8. Pontus Tideman-Jonas Andersson (SWE/Skoda Fabia R5) 5:05.6
Elfyn Evans-Daniel Barritt (GBR/Ford Fiesta), Esapekka Lappi-Janne Ferm (FIN/Toyota Yaris), Teemu Suninen-Mikko Markkula (FIN/Ford Fiesta), Jari-Matti Latvala-Miikka Anttila (FIN/Toyota Yaris)