Saturday | 23 Apr 2016

Al-Kuwari leads WRC 2 after Argentine attrition

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari led WRC 2 at YPF Rally Argentina after Friday’s tough opening day in which championship leader Elfyn Evans was the major casualty.

Qatari Al-Kuwari, driving a Skoda Fabia R5, headed the similar car of Didier Arias by 53.3sec, with early leader Nicolas Fuchs recovering from problems to hold third in a Ford Fiesta R5 a further 65.5sec behind.

Peruvian Fuchs set a strong early pace. He was fastest through last night’s street test in Cordoba before blitzing this morning’s opening two rough gravel special stages in the Calamuchita Valley, south of host town Villa Carlos Paz, to lead by over 50sec.

However, a broken power steering pump in the next test cost more than two minutes, co-driver Fernando Mussano changing gear as Fuchs wrestled with the steering wheel.

Al-Kuwari was held up in the dust kicked up by the delayed Fuchs, but seized the initiative to pull clear of Paraguayan Arias, despite a spin which removed the front and rear bumpers from his car.

The gap widened significantly this afternoon when a loss of power, believed to have been caused by a damaged exhaust, slowed Arias.

“We’ve not had any big dramas. We lost 40sec in the first loop when we were caught behind Fuchs and later with a big fifth gear spin,” said Al-Kuwari. “Very high speeds and some rough parts, but it’s been a really good day. Still two more tough days to go though.”

Hubert Ptaszek was third until Fuchs, who dropped more time stopping to change a puncture, moved ahead. The Pole then lost over 90sec after a front left tyre deflated and suspension damage delayed his Peugeot 208 T16 R5.

Evans was second, despite puncturing his front right tyre in this morning’s opening test. But worse was to come as electrical problems halted his Fiesta R5 on the following liaison section. Other retirements included Augusto Bestard, with a broken exhaust, and Khalid Al Suwaidi.

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