Jari-Matti Latvala continues to top the leaderboard of Rally Argentina, the fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Finn has extended his advantage over team-mate Sébastien Ogier and heads into tomorrow’s final day of competition with 31.2 seconds in hand. Third position continues to be held by Kris Meeke.
The second day of Rally Argentina took in another two identical loops of two long stages before returning to the short super special stage this evening. The rolling countryside around the town of Santa Rosa de Calamuchita provided yet more challenging conditions and while there were fewer retirees today, a number of crews still hit problems. In total, the route took in five stages and 164.34 competitive kilometres.
Volkswagen drivers won each of today’s mountain stages, Andreas Mikkelsen claiming victory in the first with Latvala winning the remaining three long stages, while Thierry Neuville took honours in the super special for Hyundai. Latvala’s only mistake today was in stage eight when he spun in a hairpin and then stalled the engine. Fortunately for the Finn, however, Ogier also spun in the same stage and suffered a problem with the front left tyre ensuring Latvala didn’t drop time to his charging team-mate, and was in fact three seconds faster. Resultant damage to the front bumper and spoiler of Ogier’s car, however, appear to have led to some overheating in the penultimate stage, dropping the Frenchman down on power in the slower sections. After the super special stage, the duo overnight separated by 31.2 seconds with 76.78 competitive kilometres remaining tomorrow. Third-placed Meeke was able to up the pace this afternoon, his familiarity with the stages increasing and allowing him to push harder.
While the battle behind Meeke has seen positions change throughout the day, Mikkelsen - who has climbed from seventh to fourth - is still nearly two minutes further adrift and, barring problems ahead, is unlikely to have enough kilometres to improve his position. Thierry Neuville, who also re-joined today under Rally 2 regulations, has climbed from eighth to fifth and now flies the flag for Hyundai Motorsport after team-mate Dani Sordo was forced out after the opening stage when the i20 WRC’s undertray was pushed up into the engine. Robert Kubica has slipped to sixth, the Pole lucky to escape unscathed after clipping a rut and tipping the car on to two wheels. Learning as he goes, Elfyn Evans has dropped to seventh but the Welshman is gaining experience in his debut outing in Argentina and has survived the day without problems. Martin Prokop slipped off a bridge after a water splash in the opening stage, lucky to avoid a puncture when he clouted the rear wheel. The Czech driver is eighth tonight ahead of FIA WRC 2 Championship contender and category leader, Nasser Al-Attiyah. Mads Østberg rounds off the top 10, the Norwegian picking up a puncture earlier in the day and injuring his hand when the steering wheel snatched back in the rutted conditions in the penultimate stage.