27 April 2012
Loeb ends day 1 on top – just...
Sebastien Loeb holds the lead at the close of the first leg in Argentina, 0.1 seconds up on Mikko Hirvonen; Dani Sordo is third, 33 seconds adrift further back...
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has ended the opening day of Rally Argentina in the lead, albeit just 0.1 seconds up on his closest rival.
Loeb went into the sixth and final test of the leg, 1.1 seconds up on Mikko Hirvonen in the sister works Citroen DS3 WRC car. However, the Frenchman was unable to extend his lead in the 19.18 km Cosquin-Villa Allende test, and had to settle for the second quickest time, 1 second slower than Hirvonen, who was fastest.
“I had a good start, but at the end visibility was bad and it was very slippery,” Loeb said post-SS6. “I lost confidence. I didn't want to go out so close to the end of the day. It was not easy.”
Hirvonen meanwhile is hoping he will be allowed to battle with his team-mate on day two: “Dani [Sordo] is not so far away. I hope we [Loeb and I] can have a bit of a fight [tomorrow],” he added.
Sordo, however, slipped back in SS6 and after opting to run on the harder tyres he was 20 seconds slower.
Behind, Mads Ostberg is fourth, 45.3 seconds further back, followed by Nasser Al-Attiyah and Martin Prokop.
"Things are going OK. The road conditions are still pretty tricky so we need to keep our concentration over the rest of the rally. We had an intercom problem in the long stage [SS5] which meant we lost some time but otherwise things are good", Ostberg commented.
"The conditions are still very difficult," Prokop added. "The stages are wet in places and really rough so it is hard on the car. As I said, I am still getting to grips with the characteristics of the tyres, but things are going well.
"My main aim for the weekend is to get to the finish and help DMACK develop the tyres. We'll try and push a little tomorrow, but mainly we are just taking the opportunity to enjoy the event and get the most from the rally."
Andreas Mikkelsen is next up in his VW Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia S2000, 22.8 seconds ahead of team-mate Sebastien Ogier.
Armindo Araujo and Thierry Neuville round out the top ten, the latter classified under the Rally 2 regulations, after rolling his DS3 WRC car in the previous test.
In the PWRC, Nicolas Fuchs is top dog, 5.9 seconds up on Michal Kosciuszko. Benito Guerra is third in the Production class.
In terms of retirements, in addition to Neuville, day one took its toll on the field, claiming a number of scalps. The most noticeable was early leader, Petter Solberg, who broke a steering arm in SS4. Solberg should re-start on Saturday, although now he is down in eleventh, over 14 minutes adrift.
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