Rally Argentina: Latvala wins SS3 and takes lead

Jari-Matti Latvala concludes Friday morning's loop in Argentina on top, 3.3 seconds up on Sebastien Ogier; Andreas Mikkelsen lies third, 15.2 seconds back; Thierry Neuville and Kris Meeke complete the top five; Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg both go out in SS2...
Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala has moved ahead of team-mate Sebastien Ogier and into the lead on Rally Argentina after setting a superb time in SS3.

Latvala, who was fifth quickest on Thursday afternoon in the short opening super special, began by posting the second best time in the 27.09 km Santa Catalina-La Pampa 1 test this morning, 2.8 seconds slower than Ogier. However, the Finn got the better of the Frenchman in the long 51.88 km Ascochinga-Agua de Oro 1 stage and was 10.3 seconds up. As a result he now heads into the 30 minute mid-day service in Carlos Paz with a 3.3 second cushion.

“It feels good to be leading the Rally Argentina at the moment, but I only have a slight advantage and there's still a long way to go,” Latvala said.

“The first stage this morning was rougher and more difficult at race pace than we thought – it says a lot about the reliability of the Polo that we completed the stage without any problems. During the stages we only had a few intervals where we could compare our speed with our competitors, which is why we mainly focussed on our driving,” he added.

“Even though we had to take to the route first, the conditions were better than we expected,” Ogier continued. “Overall the two long stages this morning went very well for us, it was a solid performance. The ground was damp due to the morning fog, and then there were also many dry sections. The first stage of the day was particularly hard on the car. It's definitely going to be a difficult rally, for us and the mechanics. Fortunately everything went well for us.”

Behind, Andreas Mikkelsen has moved up to P3 giving VW a clean sweep of the podium places at this stage. The Volkswagen Motorsport II man was third fastest in both stages, despite hitting a stone in Ascochinga and damaging the power steering. He ends SS3, 15.2 seconds off Ogier.

“As a rally driver, you always want to be on the attack. But this needs to be within reason so that you make it to the finish. I managed to achieve this balance quite well. Unfortunately I hit a stone on the 52-kilometre stage and the power steering didn't work properly after that. That cost us some time, but I'm [still] very pleased with the result,” Mikkelsen insisted.

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville is next up, 13.9 seconds further back, while Britain's Kris Meeke rounds out the top five in his Citroen: “I enjoyed that stage [SS3]. I had to be careful because it was rough. My pace was not so good in some sections, but in other sections it was better. I feel happy,” Meeke noted.

Further back, Martin Prokop is a distant sixth, almost 1.5 minutes off P5, but only 4.5 seconds up on Crash.net columnist, Elfyn Evans in P7, followed by former F1 winner, Robert Kubica and WRC2 runners Nasser Al-Attiyah and Nicolas Fuchs in positions 8 through to 10, the latter two split by 5 seconds.

“We're happy to be here without having made any mistakes, but at the same time it is frustrating having to drive at what seems like such a slow pace!” Evans said. “There are so many things to hit and being 100 per cent committed to your notes is very difficult. If you make a small mistake or go even slightly off line it can damage the car – it's just the nature of the road here.

“It's been a fairly careful morning for us – a bit of a high speed recce to be honest. We've seen a lot of drivers make mistakes, and that's the reason we've been so careful. We'll certainly be a lot more comfortable with the notes this afternoon and I hope we'll be a little bit more competitive. But the aim is not to attack and push for stage times – it's just to make it through and gain the experience.”

“You cannot compare these stages to what I have been used to the majority of my career!” Kubica continued. “I have no experience of these kinds of roads – there is so much variation and so much that you have to watch out for. On gravel, with very narrow and tricky roads, is it not the easiest of tasks.

“It's been a difficult morning, but we are here and that is the most important thing. My approach has been very safe – in fact I don't think it could get much safer for my standards! We know where we can improve, but that is not our goal here this weekend. Our aim is to finish and to gain the experience we need. Up until now, everything is running smoothly so let's continue like this.”

Hyundai's Dani Sordo lost over 12 minutes with turbo problems, while Mikko Hirvonen, Mads Ostberg and Ott Tanak all went out in SS2. Hirvonen hit a wall, while Ostberg and Tanak both had problems and crashed around 16 kilometres in.

Friday's action now concludes with a repeat-run through this morning's two stages. SS4, Santa Catalina-La Pampa 2, is due to start at 14.41 hours local time [18.41 hours UK time].

Rally Argentina: Overall standings after Stage 3 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1hour 01m 25.2s M
2. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 03.3s M
3. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +00m 18.5s M
4. Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +00m 32.4s M
5. Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 42.5s M
6. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 10.9s M
7. Elfyn Evans M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 15.4s M
8. Robert Kubica RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 29.0s M
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta RRC +02m 55.9s WRC2
10. Nicolas Fuchs Ford Fiesta RRC +03m 00.9s WRC2


11. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta RRC +04m 21.9s WRC2
12. Diego Dominguez Ford Fiesta R5 +05m 35.9s WRC2
24. Dani Sordo Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +12m 30.0s M

WRC2 standings after Stage 3 (Top 3):

1. Nasser Al-Attiyah Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta RRC 1hr 04m 21.1s WRC2
2. Nicolas Fuchs Ford Fiesta RRC +00m 05.0s WRC2
3. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta RRC +01m 26.0s WRC2

Notable retirements:

SS2. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Hit a wall M*
SS2. Mads Ostberg Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC Hit a rock and lost a wheel M*
SS2. Ott Tanak Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta R5 Crashed WRC2

* denotes Saturday re-start under Rally 2 still to be confirmed

all times unofficial

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Jari-Matti Latvala,  Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo WRC #7, Volkswagen Motorsport)
Jari-Matti Latvala,  Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo WRC #7, Volkswagen Motorsport)
Jari-Matti Latvala,  Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo WRC #7, Volkswagen Motorsport)

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