The longest and most difficult stage of the rally. It is a union of two classic tests, first run in this format last year. The opening 30km crosses the Sierras Chicas mountains on fast and flowing roads, punctuated by downhill hairpins, through open countryside. The second part goes back over the mountain on tighter, twistier roads with plenty of bedrock and stones on the road. It offers a tough test for tyres.
How the action unfolded:
Dani Sordo’s hopes of a good result in Argentina went out the window on Thursday’s second test when the Spaniard rolled his Citroen DS3.
The car suffered no major damage, and Sordo went on to complete the stage, but with the loss of more than seven minutes.
It was the second roll in a week for Sordo, who also crashed Citroen’s DS3 showcar at a promotional event in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
At the finish of SS3 Sordo suggested that a mistake in the pace-notes read by his co-driver Carlo Del Barrio was to blame for today’s incident.
“Sometimes it’s a driver error but this time it was a pace-note,” Sordo said. “I took a corner flat, but that was the wrong speed. After that we lost the power-steering and that cost us a lot of time. We’re both really disappointed.”
Sordo, who was seventh after SS2, dropped to 15th in the standings.
Mikko Hirvonen was the stage winner and moved up to second. The Finn’s Citroen DS3 sported badly worn rear tyres at the finish but Hirvonen was in bullish spirits. “The last 8km were tough because the rear tyres were really slippery but we kept going,” he said. “It was a good run otherwise - I tried hard.”
Hirvonen’s team-mate Sebastien Loeb was second-quickest, and pleased with the result of some set-up tweaks made on the road section from SS2: “I changed damper settings between the stages and adjusted my driving, it’s a bit better to drive, so not so bad,” he said.
Rally leader Ogier was third fastest, 6.7sec slower than Hirvonen and furious to have been delayed when he caught Sordo’s damaged Citroen mid-stage and struggled to pass it. “Yeah, a nice strategy there; to block us in the stage,” said the Frenchman sarcastically.
Mads Ostberg was 4th fastest and still dissatisfied with the feeling in his Fiesta: “I’m struggling,” he said. “The car is hard to drive – it’s like I don’t recognise it. It feels like I’m missing some power – especially coming out of corners. Perhaps it’s the altitude?”
Jari-Matti Latvala rounded off the top five times. As winner of the Qualifying Stage, the Finn had first choice of today’s road position and had picked 12th. “My position is alright but this stage was difficult," he said. "I haven’t done this road for many years and my tyres are completely finished. The car felt heavy in the corners. Not a great feeling.”
Michal Kosciuszko dropped from 10th to 11th after experiencing problems in his Mini JCW. “I have overheating tyres and I cooked the brakes too,’ he explained. “We were sliding like hell, I just couldn’t get into a good rhythm there.”