Andreas Aigner put in an outstanding drive to score his first victory in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship on the Rally Argentina on Sunday, the second round in the series.

Aigner led virtually throughout and while Toshi Arai took the spoils in SS1, the Red Bull Rally Team man soon flew past and by the middle of the first day had built up a 27.3 second lead.

He then controlled the pace from the front and in the end took the victory by just over a minute, despite a bit of a scare in the final proper test, the 16.06 kilometre run through El Condor.

"This win feels really good and I'm happy now we've finished," he reflected. "The last long stage was so difficult with lots of fog, so slippery and muddy - just like Turkey '06. We hit a big rock with the front right tyre and my hand was really hurting for the super special stage.

"But this is great for our P-WRC campaign this year as I was a bit negative after going off in Sweden. We've made mistakes in the past so this is a good chance and I have to really thanks all our sponsors. Greece and Turkey are really good rallies for us so I hope we can do well there too."

Local 'guest' driver Sebastian Beltran meanwhile drove his Lancer to second, gaining a spot in the penultimate test when Nasser Al-Attiyah had an engine problem and was forced out. The two had been split by just 6.6 seconds after Beltran was quickest in SS19, cutting the deficit by 9 seconds.

"I really wanted this position," said Beltran. "It means so much to me and to the Argentinian rally fans to have a home driver so high up. We gave it everything this morning, we were really pushing. Fantastic!"

Jari Ketomaa took the final spot on the podium in his Impreza and the result moves the rookie to the top of the PWRC standings.

The Finn had been running as low as eleventh on day 1, but he powered his way up the leaderboard and a string of top five stages time had put him fourth by half-way through day two.

"I was hoping for a podium finish and now we've got one! It was a bit of a shock on Friday morning when we started after the rain as the car's set-up wasn't right for the slow corners so we made changes over the first few days," he explained.

"We were more confident on Saturday but then today was totally different again. But now we are leading the P-WRC which is great and we will have the new car for the next rallies so hopefully we can get some good testing in it before them."

Next up was Fumio Nutahara and he was pleased with the result, even if he had been in third at one point, until dropping back on day two: "This was my first PWRC round of the year, so to come away with some good points is what I needed," he said. "The event didn't go to plan all of the time. We had some problems, but in these conditions, getting fourth place is good. I am happy."

Further down the order Martin Rauam was fifth and despite suspension problems on days 1 and 2 and an overheating engine on the final day, was clearly happy with the result, his best in the WRC, describing it as 'magical'.

Amjad Farrah and Martin Prokop came in sixth and seventh, while Bernardo Sousa took the final point in eighth, despite incurring 30 minutes of penalties on day 2 for not completing six stages after sustaining gearbox damage in a water-splash.

"We didn't really have luck on our side this time but still had some great moments. At the end of the day we managed to meet the demands of the team by finishing and getting another point," he noted.

In total 15 PWRC runners were classified at the finish, with nine more joining Al-Attiyah on the 'exit' list, including reigning champion, Toshi Arai, Mirco Baldacci, Patrik Sandell, Travis Pastrana and Marcos Ligato.

The Production Car World Rally Championship now continues at the end of May when competitors head to Greece for the Acropolis Rally, which runs from May 30 to June 1.

 

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