WRC - Evans drops time, Meeke bounces back


WRC - 2017 Rally Argentina - Saturday morning

WRC, Rally Argentina, motorsport, FIA

Fiesta WRC driver Elfyn Evans has maintained his Rally Argentina advantage during Saturday morning’s loop of three stages, but the Welshman lost 14 seconds of his lead when he ran wide in the final stage and punctured. Even so, he still heads second-placed Thierry Neuville by 44.1 seconds as the crews head into the mid-leg service. Mads Østberg, second last night, has dropped to third after problems in the opener but the Norwegian is enjoying a fine run in his privately-run Fiesta.

Saturday’s route in the Punilla Valley is the longest competitively and takes in two loops of three stages totalling 160 competitive kilometres. Evans was again on hot pace this morning, winning the opening stage to increase his lead to over a minute. He lost a little time with a slow puncture in the long 38.68 kilometre run from Los Gigantes to Cantera El Condor and then dropped yet more seconds in the final stage of the loop. Fighting to maintain podium position, Neuville is largely focused on keeping his rivals behind, the gap to Evans looking too much to overcome. The Belgian hit a bank this morning and punctured but was lucky to move from third to second position when Østberg hit problems. A loss of hydraulic pressure left his Fiesta without the centre differential and handbrake, and while the Norwegian managed to fix the problem for the following two stages, losing the rear diffuser in the same test hampered his charge in the high speed sections for the rest of the morning.

Ott Tänak has moved into fourth ahead of team-mate Sébastien Ogier. Tänak stalled on the start line of the first stage and had two spins in the last stage, but managed to inch ahead of Ogier who has found his Fiesta un-driveable all morning. The Frenchman is fifth ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala who has made some set-up changes to the Yaris WRC but is still not entirely comfortable. Hayden Paddon has had a steady run but following his roll yesterday, is over two minutes further behind in the i20 WRC. Lorenzo Bertelli continues to learn and enjoy a better pace and he heads Juho Hänninen, who has again experienced engine problems. Pontus Tidemand rounds off the top 10 in a Škoda Fabia R5 and tops the FIA WRC 2 Championship standings.

Kris Meeke, returning under Rally 2 regulations following his roll yesterday, was the only other stage winner, the Northern Irishman taking some consolation from fastest times in SS11 and SS12. His team-mate, Craig Breen, was however not so lucky; he was again forced to retire before the start of the first stage when the Citroën team noticed an oil leak on his C3 WRC.