Jari-Matti Latvala took his maiden Rally Argentina victory when he won the fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship by 1min 26.9sec from Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Sébastien Ogier.
It was Volkswagen’s ninth consecutive WRC victory, breaking the record previously held by Citroen. Kris Meeke finished third for the French squad in a DS3, a further 4min 27.8sec behind.
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Update #4: Ogier wins Power Stage
Sebastien Ogier might have missed out on his maiden Argentina win, but he bagged a consolation prize of three bonus points for going fastest on the foggy El Condor Power Stage. Mikko Hirvonen got two points for second quickest, while Jari-Matti Latvala took the final one for third. Thierry Neuville had planned a final stage push in his Hyundai i20, but a broken driveshaft at 5km left him with two-wheel drive only.
Update #3: Scare for Kubica
Robert Kubica’s grip on sixth place came under fire from Elfyn Evans as the Welshman narrowed the gap to just 5.1sec through the second pass of the 22.07km downhill stage from Giulio Cesare to Mina Clavero.
The Pole jumped out of his Ford Fiesta RS at the finish to check his tyres. “We clipped a big stone and I thought we might have a puncture, but it looks like the tyres are solid,” he said.
Martin Prokop had a broken anti-roll bar at the rear of his Fiesta RS and the car was moving around a lot in the slippery conditions. “It handles like a boat!” said the Czech driver.
Sébastien Ogier ceded a further 30sec to Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala but the Frenchman was simply taking things steady in the fog and mud. “I drove it like a road section,” he explained.
Update #2: Mud, mud, glorious mud
Conditions in the 16.32km El Condor (SS12) were appalling. Fog meant visibility was limited to 70 metres but the biggest problem was the long sections of thick, slippery mud which meant simply staying on the road was the sole aim.
“Absolutely impossible,” said Mads Østberg. “Undriveable, I have no control,” was Robert Kubica’s view. “The most difficult stage I’ve ever driven,” ventured Kris Meeke.
The only man who seemed to enjoy himself was Mikko Hirvonen. “I like it,” grinned the Finn, who was again quickest by 9.8sec in his Ford Fiesta RS from leader Jari-Matti Latvala, who stretched his advantage to 67.5sec.
The pain in Østberg’s (pictured) injured right thumb proved too much and the Norwegian retired his Citroen DS3 after the stage. He drove the morning tests with his left-hand only and the team decided that, in the awful conditions, it was too dangerous for him to continue.
Update #1: Ogier concedes defeat
Sébastien Ogier conceded defeat to Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala following the opening 22.07km test from Giulio Cesare to Mina Clavero (SS11).
In slippery, foggy conditions and run downhill for the first time since 2002, Ogier was 16.4sec slower than Latvala and the Finn extended his lead to 47.6sec in his Polo R.
“I never push in this stage. It’s a lottery in here so I prefer to just drive through. We can’t win all the time but I’m happy because this proves it’s not easy to win. Jari-Matti deserves it,” said Ogier.
Visibility for the opening 8km was poor but fog expert Mikko Hirvonen delivered a stunning performance in his Ford Fiesta RS. He was 36.4sec quicker than Andreas Mikkelsen to climb back into the points, and Latvala was the only other driver within a minute of him.
It was a nightmare for Mads Østberg as the pain from his injured right thumb continued to prove troublesome.
“I drove with one hand and it’s impossible on a stage like this. It’s hurting badly, so badly I’m not able to use it. I hit something under braking for a corner and went into some stones on the outside,” he said.