Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier won both stages this afternoon on Rally Argentina to increase his lead more than four-fold heading into the overnight halt.
Ogier, who completed the morning loop with a 3.6 second advantage, was 4 seconds up on team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala on the second-run through the 27.09 km Santa Catalina/La Pampa test, stretching his cushion to 12.5 seconds.
The Frenchman then went quickest again in SS5, the long 51.88 km Ascochinga/Agua de Oro test, despite finishing the test with a 'soft' rear left tyre and despite tricky drizzly conditions, which severely reduced visibility. He now heads back to service in Carlos Paz 16.3 seconds up on his nearest rival.
“We're very pleased with the way the rally is going for us so far,” said Ogier, who has won four of the five tests so far. “Winning the first special stage [SS2] right at the start of a day is a great feeling, of course. We were catching up Dani Sordo in the second stage today [SS3], which cost us a bit of time, but that's all part of rallying.
“In the afternoon, we chose four soft and two hard Michelin tyres, which was far from being the worst decision we could have made. Being in front after such a tough day is great – now we're concentrating on the rest of the rally. After all, we've got several long and difficult stages ahead of us.”
Sebastien Loeb meanwhile has moved up to second, even though he felt he had made the wrong tyre choice for the second loop.
“The car drove well and we thought we had gone for the right option with the hard tyres. But then we had some drizzle and so we just tried to lose as little time as possible,” Loeb explained. “We lost about ten seconds to Ogier, which isn't very much and yet, it could be crucial. We'll just have to deal with it on the last two legs.”
Mikko Hirvonen completes the provisional podium, having dropped behind Loeb in SS4. He closed back up, however, in SS5 and now just 1.8 seconds splits the two Citroen men.
“I would say it has been a positive day, much more so than on the last two rallies,” said the Finn. “We're still there. Tomorrow is going to be a tricky day, especially if it continues to rain. Everything is still possible.”
Behind, Jari-Matti Latvala is fourth, but he lost further ground to Loeb and Hirvonen in Ascochinga/Agua de Oro and reported handbrake problems at the end of the fifth test. He is 22.6 seconds off Hirvonen post-SS5 and 40.7 seconds off Ogier in the lead VW Polo R WRC.