Another famous test. The opening section is extremely narrow, twisting around huge rocks, which fans perch on top of to gain the best view. The higher parts are rough but as the road descends, it becomes smoother and more flowing and speeds increase. It is also well-known for the iron bridges that hang across the canyons.
How the action unfolded:
A second stage win this morning for Jari-Matti Latvala moved him to within 3.4 seconds of Evgeny Novikov as their battle for the final podium place continued unabated through a sun-kissed El Condor.
Enormous crowds witnessed Latvala powering his Volkswagen Polo R down the mountain, 3.1sec faster than leader Sebastien Loeb, but, more importantly for him, 3.9sec quicker than Novikov’s Ford Fiesta RS.
“Evgeny is starting to push much harder than yesterday. He is on a new level. I had to push myself very hard. There were a couple of ‘limited brakings’, so I can’t go any faster,” smiled the Finn at the finish.
Novikov was calmer than at the end of the previous test, which he had to drive with the car in road mode. “I sorted the problem. It wasn’t working in stage mode but now it’s OK. I didn’t have any moments but I’m on the limit,” admitted the Russian.
Loeb was relaxed, the Citroen DS3 pilot extending his lead to 1min 06.9sec over Sebastien Ogier. “I had no problems. It was a good stage. It was less rough than the opening test but I didn’t push too hard,” he told WRC Live.
Ogier was equally cool, the Frenchman seventh fastest in his Polo R and happy to settle for second overall and enjoy the atmosphere generated by the passionate Argentine fans amid the stunning scenery. “It was beautiful,” he said.
Mikko Hirvonen was third in his DS3, and another with the time to take in the surroundings. “This stage is in good condition and with the weather like this, it’s perfect for rallying,” said the sixth-placed Finn.
Mads Ostberg was fifth behind Novikov, the Norwegian Fiesta RS driver with his eye on taking bonus points in the Power Stage this afternoon.
“We’re taking it steady and making sure we get through. I tried to save my tyres for the Power Stage but it’s a little bit rough in places. I had the time to see how many spectators are here. It’s unbelievable. There are just loads and loads of people. I’ve never seen so many people in one place,” he enthused.