YPF Rally Argentina:
Debrief Part 1
The championship's south American counter has been the setting for some action-packed rallies in the past - and this year's edition was right up there in terms of nail-biting excitement!
In the first of our two-part debrief, we take a look at the moments that mattered.
1. Driver of the rally
He might not have sealed a fairytale ending, but Elfyn Evans' rally-leading performance for 16 stages makes him our pick from Argentina. After taking the lead on Friday, the Welshman impressed with a string of stage wins to stretch more than a minute clear by Stage 10. His subsequent reeling-in by the experienced Thierry Neuville kept us on the edge of our seats until the final stage, while Evans himself remained typically composed in his stage end comments. Okay, he might not have got the result he seemed destined for on this occasion, but Evans marked himself out as another contender for victory in 2017.
2. Stage of the weekend
It's always best when rallies go down to the wire, and in Argentina the El Condor Live TV Power Stage was the setting for a last-gasp thriller as Neuville finally overturned Evans' slender rally lead. The fact that El Condor has delivered an edge-of-the-seat finale for two years in a row only cements its reputation as a legend in the calendar. And that's before you see the place. Nowhere else do drivers have to thread their way around rocks the size of houses and over bridges that look like they've been plucked from the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
3. Surprise of the rally
Our vote goes to Mads Østberg for impressing on only his second WRC outing this year and his first on gravel in the 2017-spec Ford Fiesta. Sitting in third place by stage four, Mads stuck to a 'secret' pre-event strategy and was up to second two stages later. Brake issues, the loss of his rear diffuser and a hydraulic problem blunted his subsequent attack, but the Norwegian showed that when his car was running well he could still mix it with the front-runners.
4. One to forget
Normally we pick a driver here, but after suffering a double retirement on stage four we think Citroën would be keen to pretend Argentina 2017 never happened. The same heavy compression was responsible for the exits of both Kris Meeke and Craig Breen. Losing two cars in one stage was bad enough, but Saturday was just as awful when Meeke rolled his C3 for a second time in a massive shunt and Breen spent the whole leg on the sidelines. In the end, neither car finished. Not the result we have come to expect from the 10-time Argentina winners.
Breen’s stoic outlook on Argentina
Mechanical issues hamper Citroën driver
A bridge too far for Evans
Welshman looks back on El Condor drama
Ogier's Argentina consolation
Frenchman extends championship lead despite poor showing in Argentina