Elfyn Evans extended his lead at YPF Rally Argentina to more than a minute in Saturday morning’s opening speed test.
Stage info: SS10
Tanti - Villa Bustos 1, 20.80km
This well-known test has been reversed for 2017. It starts in the middle on Tanti on asphalt before twisting uphill and crossing several water splashes. The second part is faster with some big corners that demand bravery. It is rough initially but becomes smoother as the roads widen towards the finish.
The Welshman was quickest through the special stage from Tanti to Villa Bustos by 0.8sec from Thierry Neuville (pictured). His advantage over new-second-placed driver Neuville was 61.5sec.
Evans, whose Ford Fiesta had a precautionary gearbox change in service last night, said: “It was dodgy at the start when I felt the grip was low and we were siding a lot. Afterwards the stage was faster and my speed improved. I could have done better in places but it was OK.”
Neuville looked on course for fastest time in his Hyundai i20 Coupe until he was one of several drivers caught out by the low angle of the sun.
“I was too fast for a corner in the sun and couldn’t see the apex. I missed the braking and hit a bank. I was pushing hard but the visibility was so bad. We were lucky to get away with only a puncture,” said the Belgian.
His efforts were enough to dislodge Mads Østberg from second, the Norwegian slipping 2.8sec behind after a troubled stage in which he was eighth fastest. His Fiesta’s rear diffuser was missing, a hydraulic problem deprived him of his handbrake and centre differential and water poured into the car at a watersplash.
The watersplash also caused problems for fourth-placed Sébastien Ogier, who half spun his Fiesta, having earlier had to brake sharply to avoid a dog. He was sixth fastest and his advantage over Ott Tänak was reduced to 1.5sec, despite the Estonian stalling at the start.
Craig Breen, who retired his Citroën C3 yesterday when it jammed in fifth gear, failed to restart this morning following an oil leak in the engine.