We begin our build-up to YPF Rally Argentina [27 - 30 April] with a look back to the 2016 event.
Jari-Matti Latvala got the high-speed gravel classic off to a terrific start, until a shock crash left the way clear for a last stage shoot out and a stunning win for a WRC rising star.
Friday 22 April
Dani Sordo and Sébastien Ogier were the pace-setters at Thursday's street stage in Cordoba, but after Friday's action it was Latvala who topped the leaderboard. The Finn won four of the day's eight stages to head Volkswagen team-mate Ogier by 7.9sec. Hayden Paddon (above) was 3.5sec further behind in a Hyundai i20.
Facing the worst of the loose and dry conditions, road opener Ogier topped the order after the first two tests but Latvala - who enjoyed a better position in the start order - moved ahead before mid-leg service. As Latvala edged clear, Ogier fought with Paddon and the pair exchanged places four times.
Andreas Mikkelsen was fourth in another Volkswagen, the Norwegian overhauling Sordo when the Spaniard lost time with a sticking throttle in his i20. Mads Østberg kept clear of trouble in sixth in a Ford Fiesta RS ahead of the similar cars of Henning Solberg and an ultra-cautious Eric Camilli. Thierry Neuville ended the day tenth after losing six minutes with an electrical problem.
Ott Tänak and Lorenzo Bertelli were the two major retirements. Tänak was sixth until a jammed alternator stopped his Fiesta RS, while Bertelli lost all engine power in his similar car.
Saturday 23 April
Paddon ended Saturday's competition on course for his maiden WRC victory after Latvala rolled out of the lead. Paddon completed the day with a 29.8sec advantage over Ogier.
Latvala withstood a determined challenge from Paddon to enter the penultimate stage with a 14.5sec advantage. The Finn was almost seven seconds quicker midway through when he crashed heavily and retired. Ogier became frustrated at sweeping the surface gravel in his Polo R and fell back in the drying conditions as temperatures touched 25˚C.
Mikkelsen climbed to third in another Polo R, 14.5sec behind Ogier and 17.7sec clear of Sordo. Østberg was a distant fifth while Marcos Ligato was sixth on his debut in a DS 3. Neuville continued his recovery to move up to seventh, tied on time with Solberg.
Sunday 24 April
Paddon scored his first WRC victory after defeating Ogier in a scintillating last day duel. The pair were separated by just 2.6sec ahead of the final El Condor stage, but Paddon stunned the Frenchman to complete it almost 12sec faster and secure a 14.3sec winning margin - becoming the first New Zealand driver to win a WRC round.
Paddon started the final leg with a 29.8sec advantage but gearchange glitches cost valuable seconds before Ogier threw caution to the wind in the penultimate stage, eating into Paddon’s lead to set up a dramatic ending. “I really didn’t think I stood a chance before the last stage after losing time to Ogier this morning,” said Paddon. “I drove the stage of my life.”
Mikkelsen completed the podium a further 50.9sec behind, with Sordo 11.9sec further back in fourth and Østberg a distant fifth. Neuville recovered to sixth while Argentina’s Marcos Ligato delighted home fans by finishing seventh.