Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala increased his lead on Rally Argentina this afternoon.

Latvala, who stormed to the top of the leaderboard this morning, winning all three tests to pull out a 12.3 second advantage, initially maintained his run of stage wins this afternoon, and he was quickest in SS5, the repeat-run through El Mirador-San Lorenzo.

Although he saw his margin cut back slightly in SS6, when he was 'only' third fastest, the Finn responded with the second best time in SS7, the repeat-run through El Condor-Cuesta Bianca, which allowed him to extend his cushion by 6.1 seconds. He will now go into day two with an 18.2 second advantage.

"After the recce I knew the asphalt [section in El Condor - SS4 / SS7] would make a difference - either in a good or bad way," Latvala said. "It was great for me. I lowered the ride height of the car again this afternoon for the mixed stage, but it was harder than this morning because of the ruts in the gravel.

"Temperatures were high this afternoon and I was worried about tyre wear. I tried not to lock the brakes to look after them. I will have pressure from those behind me tomorrow, but I wanted to be first in the start order to avoid the hanging dust early in the morning. Tomorrow's roads are soft and fast in a flat area and I'm looking forward to tackling them from the front."

Petter Solberg meanwhile, despite setting the pace in SS6, was unable to make any inroads into Latvala's lead and slipped further adrift in P2 in his privately entered Citroen DS3 WRC.

"I am really happy with today," said Solberg. "The tarmac sections were quite tricky but we did great on the gravel. As long as everything stays like it is we will push hard tomorrow, I can promise you that.

"We have no strategy, we will just go! It is great being here, the stages are good, the atmosphere is unbelievable and there are just so many spectators out there. I feel great about the 400th stage win [in SS6 too], and I hope for many, many more to come!"

Sebastien Ogier is next up, although he also lost ground and a spin in SS5 cost him around 5 seconds. He is now 10.6 seconds off 'silver' and 14.7 seconds up on Mikko Hirvonen in fourth.

"We were always on the pace even if we were not at our best on the asphalt," said Ogier. "We had a puncture this morning and I think I was maybe a bit over-cautious this afternoon. We're in a very good position for tomorrow. The second day is taking place on roads that suit me a lot better even if it'll be my first time racing on them. I hope that sweeping will help us a little. I have to find a good feeling right from the start so that I can push. I know we can win."

Sebastien Loeb completes the top five, and while he set the pace in the final stage of the day, it is all looking a bit academic presently for the Frenchman after he incurred a 1 minute penalty for checking into the mid-day service early. The Frenchman is 1 minute 30.3 seconds off the lead now and over 40 seconds off fourth as a result of that gaff.

"It wasn't very clear [where we had to check in]," Loeb explained. "There were a lot of people at the time control and the check in sign wasn't visible. Daniel [Elena] handed in his time card at the exact time but we were still given a one-minute penalty. Now the gap is pretty big in the overall classification. I can't say that it's been a great day but we'll continue to push. Our fastest time in the final stage shows that we can still get among the front-runners."

Further down the order Mads Ostberg is sixth and over 30 seconds up on his M-Sport Stobart team-mate, Matthew Wilson.

"Today has been one of the toughest days I've ever experienced - the stages were just so rough. This morning we picked up on some things that we didn't on the recce so we made a few small changes to the pacenotes before this afternoon," Ostberg reflected.

"We were trying to get a good feeling with the car and we made some changes to the suspension and softened the front and rear. I didn't enjoy the asphalt so much this afternoon - I lost the preload on the rear diff and the power didn't feel at its best. It was quite similar to what we experienced in Jordan and it felt as if I was having to use the clutch a lot more than I needed to, hopefully the team can have a good look at the car in service tonight and everything will go more smoothly tomorrow."

Local favourite Federico Villagra and American Ken Block come in eighth and ninth, while Hayden Paddon rounds out the top ten and also heads the PWRC.

In terms of retirements, there was only one notable scalp - namely Citroen DS3 WRC privateer, Peter van Merksteijn Jr, who was forced out after SS5, due to turbo issues.

The action now continues on Saturday with almost 160 competitive kilometres on the bill - and four separate stages.

SS8, the 21.57 km-run through Las Jarillas-Falda del Carmen 1, begins at 08.13 hours local time [12.13 hours UK time].

Rally Argentina: Overall standings after Stage 7 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti LatvalaFord Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC1hour 48mins 59.7secs M
2. Petter SolbergPSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC+00mins 18.2secs M
3. Sebastien OgierCitroen Total WRT DS3 WRC+00mins 28.8secs M
4. Mikko HirvonenFord Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC+00mins 43.5secs M
5. Sebastien LoebCitroen Total WRT DS3 WRC+01mins 30.3secs M
6. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC+02mins 55.2secs M
7. Matthew WilsonM-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC+03mins 27.4secs M
8. Federico VillagraMunchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC+03mins 40.9secs M
9. Ken BlockMonster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC+06mins 04.8secs M
10. Hayden PaddonSubaru Impreza STi+11mins 49.6secs P


11. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X+16mins 26.1secs P
12. Daniel OliveiraBrazil WRT Mini John Cooper Works+17mins 27.5secs M

PWRC standings after Stage 7 (Top 3):

1. Hayden PaddonSubaru Impreza STi2hours 00mins 49.3secs P
2. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X+04mins 36.5secs P
3. Alejandro LevyMitsubishi Lancer Evo IX+07mins 17.9secs P

Notable retirements:

SS5/SS6. Peter van Merksteijn Jr Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRCTurbo M

all times unofficial



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