Stage description: This stage was used last year for the first time but it has been shortened by 10.42km. It starts just before the Jesuit church in Santa Catalina and for the first 7.50km, the road is open and fast. After a bridge crossing it becomes narrow, twisty and rocky for the next 10km. The final 10km are faster, but with plenty of bumps and small jumps.
How the action unfolded
Mads Ostberg took the dubious honour of being the first WRC-class retirement on Rally Argentina when he stopped his Fiesta RS on the repeated Santa Catalina stage.
The Norwegian, who drives for the Qatar M-Sport team, was fifth after the morning loop but was forced out with a broken steering arm 15km into SS4.
Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala were the two fastest drivers through the stage, making it a 1 – 2 for Volkswagen Motorsport. Both of the Polo R drivers left the midpoint service with four soft and two hard-compound tyres for the afternoon stages.
Ogier’s stage time was 4sec quicker than Latvala’s and enabled him to extend his rally lead to 12.5sec. “A good time, I’m happy and the car is working well - what more can I say?” said the Frenchman.
Latvala was pleased with his performance compared to that of his team-mate. “We were not too far away so I’m quite satisfied,” he said. “We had a good clean run. The surface was a bit soft, but there didn’t seem to be many rocks coming through.”
Sebastien Loeb was third quickest in his Citroen DS3 but was concerned by weather conditions that didn’t suit his afternoon choice of five hard-compound tyres.
“We lost everything in the last split and I don’t really know why,” said Loeb. “We are on the hard tyre because we expected the road to be dry but there was a little rain in there which was not good for us. It got a bit slippery so I’m hoping for drier conditions on the next one.”
Despite the light drizzle, Loeb’s time was enough to move him ahead of his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen into second. Hirvonen, also on the hard-compound option, found the going tough. “It was a little bit slippery and I was sliding a lot. I made a few mistakes here and there,” he said.
Evgeny Novikov rounded off the top five times in his Ford Fiesta RS - the Russian now up to sixth overall.
Dani Sordo checked-out five minutes late from the midpoint service after work to repair his damaged Citroen DS3 overran the allotted 30-minutes. The Spaniard collected a 50sec time penalty.
“The car is okay but it’s little a bit bad in some sections where its very slippery. I can’t drive like this,” said Sordo who, like Loeb and Hirvonen, had chosen five hard-compound Michelins.
The stage also brought about the retirement of Brazil World Rally Team driver Daniel Oliveira. The Brazilian, making his season debut in a Ford Fiesta RS, ripped a front wheel off his car on the first corner of the stage.