Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala dominated the opening loop in Argentina this morning, taking a clean sweep of stage wins to establish a 12.3 second cushion at the top of the leaderboard.

Latvala, who had to have a new gearbox fitted after a problem in the shakedown yesterday and who was fourth fastest in the short super special on Thursday, was immediately on it this morning, completing the first-run through El Mirador-San Lorenzo in 10 minutes 27 seconds - 2.5 seconds up on his closest rival.

The Finn then pushed on in SS3, Mina Clavero-Giulio Cesare 1, taking his second stage win on the trot. It was in the final test of the loop though, which included a 20 kilometre section on tarmac at the end, that the columnist made it a hat-trick of stage wins and gained the most ground, extending his lead by 9.3 seconds after opting to lower his Fiesta RS WRC by 20mm.

"It was so fast [in SS4] it was like racing at N?rburgring again," Latvala said. "Lowering the car by 20mm meant it moved around less and gave me more confidence in long corners. I didn't change tyres all morning because I wanted to ensure they were worn to give a better feeling on asphalt.

"I prepared for this by testing for half a day on asphalt in Sardinia last month using gravel tyres and that gave me confidence. The gravel roads were soft and sandy. There were some small ruts but the loose gravel wasn't cleaning so road position wasn't an issue," he added.

Petter Solberg meanwhile heads the chasing pack in his privately entered Citroen DS3 WRC car. The Norwegian was second quickest in both tests, but conceded that Latvala had 'killed' the opposition on the asphalt in SS4.

Sebastien Ogier lies third, 3.9 seconds off P2, while overnight leader Sebastien Loeb has dropped to fourth in the other works Citroen DS3 WRC.

"It was okay for us," said Ogier. "We have a good rhythm. We just lost some time in the last one. On the tarmac it is a bit strange and it is just so fast. But apart from that I am happy with the morning. It is just the start."

"Of course I am happy with what I have done," Loeb added. "We have the same rhythm as most of the other drivers - except one. But for the rest it is a good battle. It is sweeping, but not quickly. Between the first three or four cars it is maybe not a big difference. That is not the problem."

Mikko Hirvonen rounds out the top five, having lost two places in SS4 when he was 14.7 seconds slower than his team-mate: "It's close at the front and I feel I'm right there in the fight," said Hirvonen. "I didn't enjoy the asphalt though [in SS4]. It was sixth gear, flat out driving for many kilometres, with massive cuts in the bends.

"It was hard on the brakes and tyres and I found it difficult to make pace notes there during the recce. Maybe I was a little too cautious and the car was oversteering slightly too much for my liking."

Further back, Mads Ostberg heads M-Sport Stobart team-mate, Matthew Wilson in sixth, 12.2 seconds splitting the two Fiesta RS WRC men - although both are more than a minute off Hirvonen.

Local star Federico Villagra, Ken Block and PWRC leader, Patrik Flodin come in eighth, ninth and tenth, the latter 7.6 seconds up on Michal Kosciuszko, his closest class rival in eleventh.

There were no notable retirements, although Citroen DS3 privateer Peter van Merksteijn Jr did lose time with a suspected turbo problem in SS4, dropping him from P10 to P15.

The action now continues this afternoon with a repeat-run through this morning's three tests. SS5, the 18.23 kilometre-run through El Mirador-Sa Lorenzo 2, starts at 15.17 hours local time [19.17 hours British time].

Rally Argentina: Overall standings after Stage 4 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti LatvalaFord Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC55mins 55.8secs M
2. Petter SolbergPSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC+00mins 12.3secs M
3. Sebastien OgierCitroen Total WRT DS3 WRC+00mins 16.2secs M
4. Sebastien LoebCitroen Total WRT DS3 WRC+00mins 18.9secs M
5. Mikko HirvonenFord Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC+00mins 20.0secs M
6. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC+01mins 34.4secs M
7. Matthew WilsonM-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC+01mins 46.6secs M
8. Federico VillagraMunchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC+02mins 02.8secs M
9. Ken BlockMonster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC+03mins 01.8secs M
10. Patrik FlodinSubaru Impreza STi+05mins 30.0secs P


11. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X+05mins 37.6secs P
12. Hayden PaddonSubaru Impreza STi+05mins 49.1secs P
13. Daniel OliveiraBrazil WRT Mini John Cooper Works+06mins 31.5secs M
14. Nicolas Fuchs Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X+06mins 32.7secs P
15. Peter van Merksteijn Jr Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC+06mins 56.3secs M
16. Armin Kremer Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X+07mins 19.3secs P

PWRC standings after Stage 4 (Top 3):

1. Patrik FlodinSubaru Impreza STi1hour 01mins 25.8secs P
2. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X+00mins 07.6secs P
3. Hayden PaddonSubaru Impreza STi+00mins 19.1secs P

Notable retirements:


all times unofficial



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