At the end of the first full day of competition in Rally Argentina, Championship front-runner Sébastien Ogier tops the leaderboard ahead of arch rival Sébastien Loeb, winner of South America’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship for the past seven years. Mikko Hirvonen is third overnight.
The fifth round of the series got underway yesterday afternoon with a short super special stage in Villa Carlos Paz, where Ogier claimed the honours in front of a crowd of thousands. Today, however, the crews headed to the mountains for two identical loops of two stages covering 157.94 competitive kilometres. The Frenchman again claimed the advantage in the opening 27.09 kilometre stage and maintained his lead throughout the day, largely unchallenged, taking more stage wins in SS4 and SS5 to overnight with 16.3 seconds in hand. Closest challenger, Loeb, struggled to get into the rhythm this morning having not competed in the WRC since Rally Sweden in February. However, having changed his driving style to match the set-up changes Hirvonen and Dani Sordo had made to the DS3 WRC during the team’s recent test, the Frenchman climbed into second this afternoon, just a couple of seconds ahead of Hirvonen. The Finn was lucky to escape unscathed after hitting a rock in the opening stage and other than contending with some tyre wear, has had a good clean run and was fastest in stage three.
Behind the leading trio, Jari-Matti Latvala is happier with the Polo R WRC, benefitting from upgrades to the differentials since the previous round in Portugal. He is fourth overnight but lost time in the final stage with hand brake problems. Evgeny Novikov is fifth, the Russian running first on the road without problems during the day. Andreas Mikkelsen rounds off the top six.
Others fared less well; Mads Østberg had a problem with the windscreen wipers this morning, felt the car was down on power and then ultimately retired in stage four with a broken steering arm. Dani Sordo rolled for the second time in less than a week in Argentina. A wrong call on the pace notes saw the Spaniard lose over seven minutes with the roll and subsequent power steering failure. Martin Prokop also rolled in the final stage, and local hero Gabriel Pozzo lost time with power steering problems too.