Ford's Petter Solberg continues to lead Rally Argentina following the morning loop, 20.1 seconds up on his nearest rival.
Solberg, who took the lead on Thursday night, was second quickest this morning in the 37.51 km La Pampa test, which was an hour late starting after the fuel truck broke down. The Norwegian then topped the times in SS3, the long 51.88 km Ascochinga stage, although his morning wasn't without incident. Indeed he said he nearly went off twice in the first test of the day and he also had a scare in the next stage too. However, despite all, that he headed back to service in Carlos Paz with a good cushion.
“It's good to have a 20sec lead, but that's not a comfortable margin in a rally as long as this,” said Solberg. “Conditions were tricky and there were a lot of rocks so I drove sensibly and didn't attack too much. There's no point in trying to be a hero.
“Some protection foam fell from my seat into the footwell in the opening stage and I could feel it between my feet and the pedals. In the second stage I touched a bank with the rear of the car but it wasn't a problem. I'm not planning any major set-up changes or new tactics this afternoon. My plan is just to keep everything steady,” he added.
Behind, Mikko Hirvonen is second and he posted the third best time in SS2 and the second best time in SS3. His only complaint was a bit of understeer, although he did concede that he struggled to find a good rhythm in La Pampa.
"That was okay," he remarked after Ascochinga. "I'll have to push a bit though to get closer to Petter."
Dani Sordo meanwhile is next up and while this is his first outing with the Ford World Rally Team, standing in for the injured Jari-Matti Latvala, the Spaniard lies just 4.5 seconds off P2, having set a fourth best time in SS2 and a third best in SS3.
“The more kilometres I drive in the car, the more comfortable I feel,” said Sordo, who usually drives a MINI. “I'm learning all the time and I know that I can go faster, but I want to get used to the car properly before thinking about set-up changes. In places conditions were slippery and in others there was good grip, so I'm enjoying my first experience in the Fiesta.”
Sebastien Loeb trails his former team-mate, and the Frenchman had a pretty scrappy morning in his Citroen DS3 WRC, losing time with a spin in SS2 – although he was still quickest! – and with two further spins in SS3. He complained of a lot of understeer in the exits and now lies over 30 seconds off P1.
Thierry Neuville rounds out the top-five, just 3.2 seconds back, with Mads Ostberg sixth and not happy with his pacenotes.
Volkswagen Motorsport's Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikklensen lies seventh and eighth in their Skoda Fabia S2000 cars and remarkably are split by just 0.3 seconds.
Armindo Araujo and Nasser Al-Attiyah complete the points' scorers at this early stage, with Martin Prokop and PWRC leader, Nicolas Fuchs 11th and 12th. Al-Attiyah complained of pain in his neck, something that led to a spin in SS2, while Prokop had a puncture and lost time in the same test.
In terms of retirements, both M-Sport Ford men have run into trouble. Evgeny Novikov knocked off a wheel in SS3 and had to retire. It is not yet known if he will be able to rejoin under the Rally 2 rules. Ott Tanak also had problems, with a puncture in SS2. He then had to stop in the following test and while he did eventually limp to the end, he lost almost 18 minutes.
The action now continues with a repeat-run through this morning's two stages, before the day ends with the 19.18 km Cosquin test, SS6.
Rally Argentina: Overall standings after Stage 3 (Top 10):
1. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC 1hour 06mins 00.0secs
2. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 20.1secs
3. Dani Sordo
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 24.6secs
4. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 34.8secs
5. Thierry Neuville
Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 38.0secs
6. Mads Ostberg
Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 51.1secs
7. Sebastien Ogier
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 55.2secs
8. Andreas Mikkelsen
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 55.5secs
9. Armindo Araujo
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +03mins 04.0secs
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +03mins 59.4secs
11. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 02.1secs
12. Nicolas Fuchs
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +07mins 15.0secs
13. Marcos Ligato
Subaru Impreza WRX +07mins 21.0secs
14. Michal Kosciuszko
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +07mins 23.8secs
PWRC standings after Stage 3 – Top 3:
1. Nicolas Fuchs
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hour 13mins 15.0secs
2. Marcos Ligato
Subaru Impreza WRX +00mins 06.0secs
3. Michal Kosciuszko
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 08.8secs
SS3. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Lost wheel
all times unofficial