Sunday | 26 Apr 2015

Meeke on verge of first WRC win

Britain’s Kris Meeke moved closer to his maiden WRC victory after protecting his lead through Saturday’s second leg of XION Rally Argentina.

Despite an opening stage spin, Meeke will carry a 38.6sec advantage over Citroën team-mate Mads Østberg into tomorrow’s final day, with just two tests covering 32km in wait.

Jari-Matti Latvala was third after holding off a determined Dani Sordo over rough gravel roads north of Villa Carlos Paz. Sordo eventually retired in this evening’s final special stage with water in the spark plugs of his Hyundai i20.

Meeke’s overnight 68.4sec lead was reduced when he spun his DS 3 in thick dust. Although Østberg shaved the gap to little more than 30sec, Meeke regained time in the final test despite stopping briefly after a water splash.

“A sensor alarm went off and I panicked,” admitted Meeke. “I didn’t know what to do so I switched the engine off and on again. Hopefully I will be OK tomorrow, I think it will be like a Sunday drive for me.”

A sick Østberg admitted he tired in the second half of stages but the Norwegian enjoyed a clear run to finish 25.1sec clear of Latvala. The Finn was lucky to escape when his Volkswagen Polo R hit a bank and went off the road this morning.

Mads Østberg - second despite sickness

That incident would have cost third to a charging Sordo, but the Spaniard overshot a hairpin in the same stage before his demise later on.

Elfyn Evans’ safety-first policy has paid off and the Welshman was up to fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS, and a comfortable 2min 26sec clear of Thierry Neuville, who has recovered well from yesterday’s puncture.

Martin Prokop and Khalid Al Qassimi were sixth and seventh ahead of Sordo, who will restart tomorrow under Rally 2 regulations. WRC 2 frontrunners Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Diego Dominguez completed the leaderboard.

Volkswagen took a clean sweep of fastest times with Andreas Mikkelsen claiming two wins and Sébastien Ogier one. The day’s other stage was cancelled after Hayden Paddon crashed.

Ogier had another disappointing day after dropping four minutes in the final stage with broken power steering on his Polo R.

Competitors restart at 08.00 tomorrow for two passes through the classic El Condor stage, one of the most famous pieces of road in the WRC. The rough, narrow track winds through massive roadside rocks, and the second pass forms the live TV Power stage with bonus points for the fastest three drivers.

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