4 May 2007
Argentina - leg 1: Logistical issues ruin day.
BP Ford's Mikko Hirvonen leads the Rally Argentina at the end of leg 1 although proceedings were badly marred by logistical problems, which meant only the two short stadium-based speed tests were run.
Mikko grabbed the early advantage on Thursday night after taking the spoils on the super special stage around the River Plate football stadium in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately though getting the competitors' the 700 kilometres back to Cordoba after proved problematic.
Indeed while the outward journey passed off without any problems, the return trip was dogged by a cascade of issues, which prevented the planes from taking off on time from Buenos Aires.
Radar communication problems at Buenos Aires airport and then a huge storm delayed the flights by four hours. Two of the three charter flights eventually arrived at Cordoba airport, with drivers reaching their hotels in Carlos Paz at 03.30. However, more bad weather forced a third plane to turn back, stranding officials, team personnel and other drivers in Buenos Aires airport for the night.
Fog at Cordoba this morning meant the flight was again unable to depart and it only eventually departed from the capital at 1pm today.
Organisers therefore had to scrap seven stages, to the disappointment of the huge crowds waiting to see their heroes. Only the Cordoba super-special, which was scheduled to conclude the day's action, survived the cuts.
Mikko's form on the super specials however was spot on and he again led the way tonight. As a result he will take a 2.4 second lead into the start of the event proper on Saturday, with Citroen's Daniel Sordo heading the chasing pack, 0.5 seconds up on his team-mate, Sebastien Loeb, in the sister C4 WRC.
Marcus Gronholm, who was second overnight, drops to fourth, 0.1 seconds off Seb, while Subaru duo, Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson complete the top six, followed by OMV Kronos Citroen's Manfred Stohl and Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg.
In the Production Car World Rally Championship category, Mirco Baldacci leads the way after SS1 and SS9, albeit just 0.1 seconds up on Leszek Kuzaj and just 0.2 seconds up on Niall McShea and Frederico Villagra, who are currently tied for third spot.
The rally will now run on Saturday as scheduled - nine stages lay in wait, around 160 competitive kilometres. Organisers are however, considering changes to Sunday's itinerary to ensure the rally completes the required two-thirds distance for full points to be awarded.
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