30 March 2008
Argentina - day 3: Loeb overcomes gruelling test.
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb triumphed on the Rally Argentina for the fourth year in succession on Sunday, despite some horrendous weather conditions, which made it one of the most challenging events in recent years.
Indeed throughout the three days torrential downpours, mud, fog and wild winds were the common themes, making it a real rally of attrition, with only three of the 13 works drivers' escaping without any major issues and unsurprisingly they locked out the podium.
It wasn't until SS5, however, that Seb got his hands on P1, when BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen hit a rock and was forced out.
Prior to that the Finn had been in a class of his own and he stormed through SS1, a massive 48.1 seconds up on Jari-Matti Latvala, while Seb was 'only' third.
Loeb then lost further ground in SS2, SS3 and SS4 and while he moved up into P2, following Latvala's off in Ascochinga 1, the Frenchman couldn't match Mikko, who notched up two more stages wins and went into the first service with a 50.8 second cushion.
On the repeat loop on Friday afternoon though, Seb soon inherited the lead when Hirvonen damaged his suspension. After all the rain the stages were muddy and rutted and as the roads became softer, rocks that had not been visible during the recce became exposed on the second pass, causing problems for many, with Mikko the first major victim.
Loeb though had no such problems and paced himself through SS6 and SS7, setting two fifth fastest efforts to maintain his 50 second advantage, before finally finishing the day with a 1 minute 30.6 second lead, after his closest rival suffered two spins in the penultimate test.
On day two, Seb set the third fastest time on the first stage of the day, before topping the times in both SS11 and SS12. He then notched up the fourth best time in SS13 and returned to the mid-day halt having fractionally extended his lead to 1 minute 32.4 seconds.
In the afternoon he took another stage win in SS15 as well as setting two second best times in SS14 and SS16 and a third best in SS17.
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