Jari-Matti Latvala dominated today’s third leg of Rally Argentina to widen his lead over Volkswagen team-mate Sébastien Ogier to 31.2sec.
The Finn won three of the five stages in his Polo R and outpaced Ogier through them all to take a comfortable advantage into tomorrow’s rocky final leg.
Latvala revelled in the faster, smoother stages in the Calamuchita Valley, south of Villa Carlos Paz. After stretching his 17.7sec overnight lead to 21.2sec this morning, he capitalised on afternoon problems for Ogier to move further ahead.
“This was one of my best drives. Sometimes you get one of those days when you are in the flow and it’s a great feeling, but you have to use it in the right way,” said Latvala, who also praised co-driver Miikka Anttila’s precise pace note reading in this afternoon’s fog.
Ogier spun in this afternoon’s opener before his front left tyre delaminated near the finish, damaging the wing. It also loosened the front bumper unit which fell off in the next test, and the lack of cooling overheated the engine and left him short of power.
Kris Meeke survived a sixth gear brush with a bank this morning to hold third in a Citroen DS3, 3min 15.8sec behind Ogier. He is being caught by Andreas Mikkelsen, who won the opening stage, and climbed from seventh to fourth after restarting under Rally 2 rules. He is 1min 56.0sec adrift of Meeke.
Thierry Neuville followed the Norwegian past Robert Kubica, Elfyn Evans and Martin Prokop into fifth in his Hyundai i20, taking the first non-Volkswagen stage win of the event.
Kubica almost rolled his Ford Fiesta RS after hitting a rock in this afternoon’s opening stage but he and Evans have kept out of serious trouble in sixth and seventh as they gain experience on their debuts here.
Prokop is eighth and the leaderboard is completed by WRC 2 leader Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mads Østberg, who further injured the right hand he hurt in yesterday’s accident when the steering wheel on his Citroen DS3 kicked back after hitting a rock.
Dani Sordo, whose i20 was one of several cars still being repaired in the early hours this morning after yesterday’s carnage, retired for a second time after the opening stage. The car’s undertray was pushed into the engine causing terminal damage and he will not restart tomorrow.
The final leg features two passes through the classic El Condor and Giulio Cesare tests, where the roads are narrow and rocky and the scenery stunning. Drivers restart at 06.48 local time and face 76.78km of action.