Wednesday | 14 May 2014

Rally Argentina driver report: part 1

We begin our review of the WRC drivers from last weekend’s Rally Argentina with the first of two round-ups.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen Polo R)
Latvala beat Ogier in a problem free head-to-head fight for the first time since becoming team-mates. That will do wonders for the Finn’s confidence, which is either sky high or rock bottom – there’s little in the way of balance. But Marcus Grönholm’s ‘mind man’ Christoph Treier is now in Latvala’s corner giving advice, which is basically ‘get in the car, drive it and don’t over-analyse’. We can’t wait for Sardinia…

Kris Meeke (Citroen DS3)
After crashing in Mexico and Portugal, Meeke was under big pressure to finish. Not only did he achieve that, but he racked up a second podium of the year with a mature performance. We know the Northern Irishman can drive quickly, but here he proved he can drive slowly when he needs to, finding a pace that was no faster than it needed to be to hold off Andreas Mikkelsen.

Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta RS)
Evans voiced his frustration at not driving faster. But racking up experience of the Argentine roads on his debut there was the name of the game for the Welshman. Credit to him for sticking to the team plan. It would have been easy to have been sucked into pushing too hard and joining many of his rivals in a first morning retirement - and that would have been a year wasted.

Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20) 
Fifth for the Belgian was a solid outcome after a turbo problem at the end of the first full day and transmission issues in the Power Stage. When the i20’s handling was awry on Friday morning in conditions Hyundai hadn’t encountered in competition, Neuville was quickly on the case and suspension tweaks made the car less of a handful. Such feedback is exactly what the newcomers need.

Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen Polo R)
Had the pace to give Volkswagen a 1-2-3 had a broken alternator belt not sidelined him from third on Friday’s final stage. Charged back up the order on Saturday but ran out of kilometres with which to really put the pressure on Kris Meeke. Third in the championship is a fair reflection of the Norwegian’s performances this season and must be considered a genuine podium contender in most places now.

Robert Kubica (Ford Fiesta RS) 
At last! Kubica set his brain into survival mode and duly drove around a WRC event without crashing for the first time in a World Rally Car. You have to learn to walk before you can run, and if the Pole can continue to rein in his speed in the cause of gaining experience then this could be the turning point in his season. He knows he can drive faster but finishes are what he needs - and he delivered.