Citroen ace Sebastien Ogier has finished day two of Rally Argentina in a commanding position after Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg both hit problems.
Ogier, who had gone into the mid-day service 17.8 seconds off P1, put in a charge this afternoon and he was rewarded with the fastest time on the repeat-run through Las Jarillas-Falda del Carmen [SS12], cutting Latvala's cushion to 10.6 seconds. The Frenchman then took another stage win in SS13 and with Latvala slowed by suspension issues, seized the initiative.
Ogier eventually ended the day with a 43.7 second advantage, his position further bolstered after Petter Solberg lost around 50 seconds in the final test of the leg [SS15] due to a power steering failure.
“Even if I didn't know today's stages I felt confident as I liked their profile. I took advantage of them to push hard and race incidents played in our favour,” Ogier said. “On paper, we've got a big lead. We'll have to remain concentrated right until the end and we know that the race isn't won until we're back in the parc fermé.”
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile now finds himself bumped up to second, although he has a battle on his hands to hold off the recovering Sebastien Loeb. Loeb has been a man on a mission after incurring a one minute penalty on Friday and he is now just 4 seconds back in P3, having won five of the day's eight tests.
“We really got back into the battle today,” Loeb noted. “The result's a lot more satisfactory than yesterday but we can still move up another place. Tomorrow we're starting with the aim of overtaking Mikko. We'll have to push hard in the long 48-km stage.”
Solberg is fourth and he was gutted to lose so much time late on, especially as he had arguably still been in contention for the win after SS14, just 21.1 seconds off Ogier. He is now 1m 16.1s off P1 and 28.4s off the final place on the podium.
“Right now I'm just so disappointed,” Solberg lamented. “Everything has been going so well, and we have been on the pace for two days, and then 2 km into to the final stage of the day we lose the power steering and a lot of time. It will be fixed for tomorrow, and I will do my best on all the four stages trying to get some of the lost time back.”
Further back, Mads Ostberg completes the top five for the M-Sport Stobart Ford team, albeit over 3.5 minutes off fourth. Local man Federico Villagra is sixth, 57 seconds further down the road, while Britain's Matthew Wilson lies seventh, having lost time with a puncture in SS10.