Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier won both stages this afternoon on Rally Argentina to increase his lead more than four-fold heading into the overnight halt.

Ogier, who completed the morning loop with a 3.6 second advantage, was 4 seconds up on team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala on the second-run through the 27.09 km Santa Catalina/La Pampa test, stretching his cushion to 12.5 seconds.

The Frenchman then went quickest again in SS5, the long 51.88 km Ascochinga/Agua de Oro test, despite finishing the test with a 'soft' rear left tyre and despite tricky drizzly conditions, which severely reduced visibility. He now heads back to service in Carlos Paz 16.3 seconds up on his nearest rival.

"We're very pleased with the way the rally is going for us so far," said Ogier, who has won four of the five tests so far. "Winning the first special stage [SS2] right at the start of a day is a great feeling, of course. We were catching up Dani Sordo in the second stage today [SS3], which cost us a bit of time, but that's all part of rallying.

"In the afternoon, we chose four soft and two hard Michelin tyres, which was far from being the worst decision we could have made. Being in front after such a tough day is great - now we're concentrating on the rest of the rally. After all, we've got several long and difficult stages ahead of us."

Sebastien Loeb meanwhile has moved up to second, even though he felt he had made the wrong tyre choice for the second loop.

"The car drove well and we thought we had gone for the right option with the hard tyres. But then we had some drizzle and so we just tried to lose as little time as possible," Loeb explained. "We lost about ten seconds to Ogier, which isn't very much and yet, it could be crucial. We'll just have to deal with it on the last two legs."

Mikko Hirvonen completes the provisional podium, having dropped behind Loeb in SS4. He closed back up, however, in SS5 and now just 1.8 seconds splits the two Citroen men.

"I would say it has been a positive day, much more so than on the last two rallies," said the Finn. "We're still there. Tomorrow is going to be a tricky day, especially if it continues to rain. Everything is still possible."

Behind, Jari-Matti Latvala is fourth, but he lost further ground to Loeb and Hirvonen in Ascochinga/Agua de Oro and reported handbrake problems at the end of the fifth test. He is 22.6 seconds off Hirvonen post-SS5 and 40.7 seconds off Ogier in the lead VW Polo R WRC.

"It was a day of highs and lows for us," said Latvala. "In terms of speed, we were usually up there with the best today - like in the first and third stages. I was a bit too fast at one point in the second stage and hit a stone. I was lucky and was able to keep going, but my handbrake stopped working afterwards which is important because we use it to throw the car around hairpin bends. On top of that, the tyres were really starting to flag at the end of that stage. Once my crew had done a great job of servicing the car, everything went according to plan again, but the handbrake played up again in the fourth stage [of the day, SS5]. I lost a bit of time on the hairpin bends. I could have made more of today, so I'm not 100 per cent happy."

Evgeny Novikov rounds out the top five in his Qatar M-Sport WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC, almost a minute further back, followed by VW third driver, Andreas Mikkelsen and fellow Qatar runner Thierry Neuville.

"Running first on the road was okay for me," said Novikov. "I took five soft tyres this afternoon and that worked well and also puts us in a better position for later in the rally. When the conditions are a little trickier like they were this afternoon, I really enjoy it. We kept the same rhythm as we did in the morning, but the times were better which was good. I'm first of the Fords now which is not so bad. Okay, fifth place isn't where we want to be, but there is a long way to go and as we have seen a lot can still happen. Let's wait and see."

"Hazy weather and fog in the morning twinned with four extremely long, physically challenging special stages - the Rally Argentina didn't make things particularly easy for us today," added Mikkelsen. "High levels of humidity and soaring temperatures in the cockpit demanded absolute fitness. We worked on our communication today and tried out our new pace notes for the first time. Everything is moving in the right direction: our times are getting better and I feel more comfortable in the Polo R WRC with every metre. We're delighted with our placing too - we'd love to keep it up over the next two days, of course."

Martin Prokop holds eighth, even though he had a 'big moment' in SS5 and rolled his Fiesta RS WRC car in a slow corner, with Gabriel Pozzo and Dani Sordo ninth and tenth respectively. Pozzo lost his power steering in SS5, while Sordo picked up a 50 second time penalty when he was late out of the mid-day service. The Spaniard had rolled his Citroen DS3 WRC car in SS3 and the repairs took longer than the allocated time.

"I wasn't comfortable on SS2, which I thought was very slippery. But it was much better on the next stage. Unfortunately, there was a problem with Carlos [del Barrio]'s door. It affected his concentration and he didn't give me the right pace note. It's really disappointing, but that's life. We are still in the rally and we will keep going to try and secure the best possible result," Sordo stated.

A number of other runners also had problems, most noticeably Mads Ostberg. Ostberg had been running fifth overall, but broke a steering arm in SS4. He is provisionally classified 11th overnight and is expected to be able to re-join under the Rally 2 rules on Friday. Daniel Oliveira also stopped in SS4 after losing a front wheel, while Michal Kosciuszko pulled over in SS5.

In WRC2, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari has over a 4 minute lead in his Ford Fiesta RRC. Yuriy Protasov is second and Ricardo Trivino third.

Rally Argentina now continues on Friday, with two loops of two stages on the bill, before runners then tackle the 6.04 km super special stage again that kicked off things on Wednesday afternoon.

SS6, the 40.69 km Santa Rosa/Villa del Dique 1, is due to start on Friday at 08.33 hours local time [12.33 hours UK time].

Rally Argentina: Overall standings after Stage 5 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien OgierVolkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC1hour 57mins 14.1secs M
2. Sebastien LoebCitroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC+16.3s M
3. Mikko HirvonenCitroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC+18.1s M
4. Jari-Matti LatvalaVolkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC+40.7s M
5. Evgeny NovikovQatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 37.7sM
6. Andreas MikkelsenVolkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC+1m 55.1s T
7. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 12.5s T
8. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6m 41.4s T
9. Gabriel PozzoQatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +10m 10.3s T
10. Dani SordoAbu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +10m 32.6s M


11. Mads OstbergQatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC+10m 33.2s M*
12. Abdulaziz Al-KuwariFord Fiesta RRC+12m 50.9s WRC2
13. Daniel OliveiraStohl Racing Ford Fiesta RS WRC +14m 14.2s*
14. Michal Kosciuszko Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC +14m 48.3s T*
15. Yuriy ProtasovSubaru Impreza STi R4+17m 20.7s WRC2
16. Ricardo TrivinoMitsubishi Lancer Evo IX+18m 11.2s WRC2

*assumes will re-start on Friday under Rally 2

WRC2 standings after Stage 5 (Top 3):

1. Abdulaziz Al-KuwariFord Fiesta RRC2hr 10m 05.0s WRC2
2. Yuriy ProtasovSubaru Impreza STi R4+4m 29.8s WRC2
3. Ricardo TrivinoMitsubishi Lancer Evo IX+5m 20.3s WRC2

Notable retirements:

SS4. Mads OstbergQatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRCBroken steering arm M
SS4. Daniel OliveiraStohl Racing Ford Fiesta RS WRC Lost front wheel
SS5. Michal Kosciuszko Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC Stopped in stage T

all times unofficial



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