for Rally Argentina leaderboard after Day 1
Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala extended his Rally Argentina lead on Friday's repeat loop.
Latvala won three of the first four stages this morning to build a 5.4sec cushion over Hayden Paddon – and a 6.9sec cushion over team-mate and Championship leader, Sebastien Ogier.
The Finn was the man to beat again in the afternoon too, and while he was 'only' third in SS6, albeit just 0.6secs shy of pace-setter Paddon, he was quickest in both SS7 and SS8, before going fourth fastest through the repeat-run through the 6.04km Super Especial Parque Tematico. He will now take a 7.9sec advantage into day two.
“It was a good day. I gave everything and was pushing really hard,” Latvala said. “I am very pleased, no big mistakes, but I know Saturday will be tough.”
Speaking back in service, Latvala added: "I am very pleased with the first full day here in Argentina. The main thing was to get a feel for the conditions and slowly pick up the pace. I built up a small lead stage by stage.
“We'll try to continue this tomorrow. My team-mate Sebastien Ogier and Hayden Paddon in the Hyundai are really fast and it is an exciting competition. Nothing is decided yet, but like I said, I am really pleased with the first day."
Meanwhile, Ogier heads the chasing pack, overhauling Paddon for P2 again after going quickest in the day ending SSS.
"I couldn't get any more out of today - we were right at the limit,” said Ogier. “I'm very pleased with what we achieved. To be honest, I expected to lose more time to the top at the start of the rally, which is why I wasn't feeling very optimistic at the lunch break.
“However, the conditions in the afternoon were better than I thought they would be. The track profiles are spectacular and so much fun. And the Polo R WRC was on top form. Julian [Ingrassa – co-driver] and I will give it our all to be in with a chance of getting our first win in Argentina right down to the wire."
“I'm really happy with the way things have gone today,” Paddon continued. “The car was working pretty well from the first stage this morning, although I felt my driving was a bit messy in places. I made too many mistakes so my aim for the afternoon was to tidy things up.
“The roads were in better condition than we expected on the second loop and we were able to find some improvements. Our pace notes were good and it was fun. There was a slight issue with the rear damper in SS8 but nothing that massively affected us. There's still a long way to go, but we've stayed in touch and tomorrow's my favourite day of the rally.”
Behind, VW II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen is a rather lonely fourth, 14.3secs off Paddon, and 23.3secs up on Dani Sordo in fifth, the Spaniard losing time in the morning after suffering with a sticky throttle pedal.
“I purposely started Rally Argentina cautiously and always gave myself a bit of breathing space,” Mikkelsen noted.
“I have always been fast here – but I've not managed to avoid setbacks on my four starts so far. Naturally I want to change that this time. I like the stages, and am enjoying the tracks – particularly because my Polo is set up perfectly and is running like clockwork. We've laid a good foundation for a top result today and are in with a chance of finishing on the podium.”
“It's a great feeling to be back rallying here,” Sordo continued. “The atmosphere is incredible and the rally is really enjoyable. Overall, we have had a reasonably good Friday. The feeling with the New Generation i20 WRC was good in the first stage but the pace was really fast so I had to start to take things carefully.
“SS4 was not so good. We lost some time because our throttle got stuck - and then we lacked confidence in the repeat of that stage this afternoon. Apart from that, it was all OK; we concentrated on making it to the end of the day safely, and the top-five is a decent place to be with two tough days remaining.”
Further back, Mads Ostberg lies sixth, more than a minute adrift of P5, with fellow Ford Fiesta RS WRC runners Henning Solberg and Eric Camilli seventh and eighth respectively.
“Nothing special. Just enjoying it, not so enjoyable to see the times though,” Ostberg conceded.
“This afternoon has been working quite well though. We were pushing quite hard and I was pleased with the rhythm that we had. The stages held up really well and they were nice to drive. Pace wise we're still not where we want to be. We want to be fighting for the top positions and we all know that we have some work to do to achieve that.”
Local star Marcos Liagto and Hyundai's Thierry Neuville round out the top ten, the latter moving back into the points on the second loop after his engine cut out in SS4, costing him over 5.5 minutes.
“We have struggled with some technical difficulties since the shakedown on Thursday. In the morning loop and we were lacking a lot of confidence. We tried to keep calm but losing six minutes in SS4 was hard to take so early in the event,” Neuville stated.
“The engine kept cutting off so we had to stop and repair the problem to make sure we could continue until the end of the stage. We had a small consolation by winning the super special stage (SSS5) before we could work on the car over lunchtime service. The problem was resolved with the car working well as the afternoon loop progressed. We need to find a good rhythm tomorrow and fight for Championship points – that's our target now.”
In WRC2, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari leads, 53.3secs up on Didier Arias with Nicolas Fuchs third, potentially giving Skoda a clean sweep of the support class podium.
As for retirements, Elfyn Evans and Ott Tanak both went out this morning, the former with electrical issues post-SS3, while the latter was stopped by an alternator issue post-SS4. Valeriy Gorban and Lorenzo Bertelli then joined them on the sidelines this afternoon.
Rally Argentina now continues on Saturday with two loops of three stages on the bill, totalling just under 158 kilometres. SS10, the 19.71km Villa Bustos-Tanti 1 test, is due to start tomorrow at 08.58 hours local time [12.58 hours UK time].