Ford's Petter Solberg has expressed his 'disappointment' after retiring from day one of Rally Argentina.
Solberg had led the opening half of the marathon 204km leg on Friday and had built up a 20 second advantage in his Fiesta RS WRC car. However, he was forced out in the first test on the afternoon loop, when an impact with a rock damaged a steering arm.
He will now re-start in eleventh position today [Saturday] under the Rally 2 regulations, with a 15 minute penalty incurred for failing to complete the final three stages.
“I was driving in the ruts when the sump guard under the car touched some exposed bedrock and the impact bent the left steering arm,” Solberg explained. “I continued at normal pace for another 10km until the arm snapped in mid-air at a sixth gear crest about 6km from the finish. The car went off the road when it landed and the front right hit a rock.”
Solberg and co-driver Chris Patterson then replaced the broken arm with a spare unit carried in the car. However, when 'Hollywood' restarted he discovered the right steering arm broke in the second impact and he had to stop.
“Obviously I'm disappointed,” Solberg added. “I had a 20sec lead, although I didn't feel that was a comfortable margin in a rally as long as this. I fought back to third in a similar situation at the last round in Portugal, so my aim now is to climb back up the order as far as I can over the next two days.”
Ford boss Malcolm Wilson meanwhile felt it was another chance squandered: “With Petter's retirement we lost a great opportunity to win, which is a disappointment,” he continued. “Because the rally is so long though, he has the chance to fight back and score good points here.”
Dani Sordo now leads the Ford challenge and he ended the day third overall, 33.1 seconds off the lead, having never put a foot wrong.
“I enjoyed my first experience in the Fiesta,” said Sordo, who is standing in for the injured Jari-Matti Latvala. “The more kilometres I drive in the car, the more comfortable I feel. I'm learning all the time. This isn't the easiest rally in which to learn a new car and I could drive faster, but that means taking more risks, and that increases the risk of going off the road. I'm pleased with my consistency and I'll continue driving the way I have been.
“In places conditions were slippery and in others there was good grip. Tonight we decided to use the harder compound tyres to save the softer rubber for tomorrow, when it could be wet.
“We knew we would lose time as the traction wasn't as good with the hard compound, but we hope to benefit later in the rally,” he added.