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WRC - Tänak pursues Neuville for Rally Argentina lead

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2019 Rally Argentina - Saturday morning

2019 FIA Rally Argentina - T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul

Thierry Neuville’s lead on Rally Argentina is getting tighter as Ott Tänak won two stages and keeps coming closer to the Hyundai driver, while Neuville’s team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen holds an unexpected third place after problems occurring to Sébastien Ogier and Kris Meeke.

Saturday morning was the longest loop of the rally, with four stages making up 76.28 kilometres in total. That included the Cuchilla Nevada-Characato test, which is the longest of the rally and made up nearly half of the loop’s total distance. Unlike Friday, where heavy rain had caused very tricky road conditions, the fast and flowing roads today were drier thanks to plenty of sunshine.

Toyota’s lead driver Tänak won two stages to close in on rally leader Neuville. The fast and flowing roads suited the Toyota Yaris WRC’s aerodynamics well, as Neuville suggested was the main difference between the two drivers. The pair is now separated by 6.4s as the rally continues for the afternoon’s loop.

Cuchilla Nevada-Characato caught out several drivers and, though Mikkelsen ran wide and hit a rock, the Norwegian moved into the final podium position. Ogier was third in the sole remaining Citroën – his team-mate Esapekka Lappi having rolled out the day before and being unable to restart today – but became confused by a small split in the road, with a gate to the left and a shortcut to the right.

While other drivers took the shortcut, Ogier went down the left fork, clipping a gatepost on his way through and breaking his C3’s power steering. Struggling with his car for the rest of the loop, he dropped over a minute and fell to sixth place.

Meeke’s hopes of a podium position were set back by running wide at the same corner as Mikkelsen, picking up a puncture. The Northern Irishman had to drive through the next super special with the punctured tyre still on his car and lost even more time, holding a fragile fourth place by only 0.9s over Dani Sordo behind in fifth.

Seventh-placed Jari-Matti Latvala was another driver to be caught out by the same corner as Mikkelsen and Meeke, and he also sustained a puncture.

M-Sport’s difficult rally became worse when Elfyn Evans crashed into a boulder, oversteering through a right-hand corner and hitting a large rock. Though the impact was heavy and forced them to retire, both Evans and co-driver Scott Martin were unharmed. Teemu Suninen placed the second Ford Fiesta WRC in eighth place, 1m27.9s behind Latvala ahead of him.

FIA WRC 2 Pro leader Mads Østberg is ninth overall with a comfortable lead in class, while Pedro Heller completes the top 10 and also leads FIA WRC 2.

FIA WRC 2 Pro youngster from Bolivia, Marco Bulacia Wilkinson, saw his hopes of a debut podium smashed by a dramatic roll on Tanti – Mataderos, which resulted in severe damages on his Škoda Fabia.