Citroen's Sebastien Loeb continues to lead Rally Argentina following Saturday's opening three stages, although team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen is keeping him under pressure and is just 2.1 seconds adrift.
Loeb began the second day just 0.1 seconds up on Hirvonen and initially he stretched that to 3.9 seconds, by posting the quickest time in SS7, the 20.18 km San Agustin 1 test. Hirvonen fought back though in SS8, and in a reversal of the previous test, he took first, while Loeb was third, 1.5 seconds slower. In SS9, the final one before the mid-day service in Carlos Paz, Mikko again set the pace, although only 0.3 seconds up on Loeb.
Speaking after the 39.74 km Intiyaco test, Loeb admitted he had a scare mid-way through SS9: “I had a good start, but then we had a big moment and hit a rock on the sump guard. I don't know how we stayed on the road. I lost confidence a bit after that. But we got it back a bit at the end,” he told Rally Radio
Dani Sordo meanwhile remains third for Ford, although he has lost a lot of ground this morning. Indeed from being 33.1 seconds back last night, he has seen that gap almost triple, to 1 minute 30.7 seconds.
“I made no mistakes but I wasn't so happy with my times,” said Sordo, who is standing in for Jari-Matti Latvala. “I didn't have full confidence in my pace notes in the last stage and that affected my driving. I used soft tyres in the opening test, which wasn't the right option as the road was quite dry.
“In the other two stages I had a mix of hard and soft rubber, with soft on the front right and rear left of the car and hard tyres elsewhere. The handling felt different with the mix and the car was moving around too much. Soft tyres all round would have been the best option, especially in the last stage which was slippery in the first part.”
Mads Ostberg is next up in his Adapta WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC, 55.9 seconds in arrays off P3.
Nasser Al-Attiyah is classified fifth, although he looks likely to have to retire for the day, after hitting a rock in SS9 and knocking a wheel off. Although he limped to the end of that test, he had to park up after it.
That looks like bumping Martin Prokop up a place, with the Volkswagen Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 of Andreas Mikkelsen and Sebastien Ogier locked in a good scrap behind and separated by 11.9 seconds.
Arminado Araujo is the top MINI in ninth – read eighth if Al-Attiyah is unable to continue – then come Thierry Neuville and Petter Solberg both now running under the Rally 2 regulations, but still set for points. Evgeny Novikov, Paulo Nobre and Ott Tanak also all rejoined this morning, finishing the loop in 12th, 19th and 23rd respectively.
“My target is to score as many points as I can so I didn't take any risks,” said Solberg. “The car worked well and the stages were fantastic. My only mistake was in the second stage when I spun at low speed. The notes for the last stage were made in fog during the recce, and they weren't perfect in today's brighter conditions.”
The action now continues with a repeat-run through this morning's three stages. SS10, San Agustin 2, is due to start at 14.44 hours local time [18.44 hours UK time].
Rally Argentina: Overall standings after Stage 9 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 3hours 06mins 42.3secs
2. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 02.1secs
3. Dani Sordo
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 30.7secs
4. Mads Ostberg
Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 26.6secs
5. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +07mins 58.1secs
6. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +08mins 07.5secs
7. Andreas Mikkelsen
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +08mins 36.8secs
8. Sebastien Ogier
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +08mins 48.7secs
9. Armindo Araujo
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +11mins 23.5secs
10. Thierry Neuville
Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +11mins 36.9secs
11. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +14mins 34.4secs
12. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +21mins 01.2secs
13. Nicolas Fuchs
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +21mins 53.4secs
14. Michal Kosciuszko
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +22mins 35.5secs
15. Benito Guerra
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +22mins 59.7secs
16. Eliseo Salazar
MINI John Cooper Works WRC +25mins 27.1secs
17. Daniel Oliveira
Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +27mins 36.2secs
19. Paulo Nobre
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +29mins 08.9secs
PWRC standings after Stage 9 – Top 3:
1. Nicolas Fuchs
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 3hours 28mins 35.7secs
2. Michal Kosciuszko
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 42.1secs
3. Benito Guerra
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +01mins 06.1secs
SS3. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Lost wheel
SS3. Paulo Nobre
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Stopped
SS4. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Steering arm
SS4. Ott Tanak
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Stopped
SS5. Thierry Neuville
Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC Rolled
* denotes re-started under the Rally 2 regulations
all times unofficial