Saturday | 23 Apr 2016

SS12: Latvala relieves Paddon pressure

Jari-Matti Latvala increased his YPF Rally Argentina lead in Saturday morning’s final speed test to stem Haydon Paddon’s determined charge.

Stage info: SS11 / 12

SS11: Los Gigantes - Cantera El Condor 1, 38.68km
Los Gigantes has previously hosted the Dakar Rally. It covers barren and remote territory as it peaks at 1912 metres after 12.40km of climbing from the start on bumpy, sandy roads. After reaching the top, the stage becomes fast and flowing on a clay surface, with few reference points in the wide open environment. There are plenty of cows, horses and sheep roaming the hills and fog is a distinct possibility.

SS12: Boca del Arroyo - Bajo de Pungo 1, 20.52km
The opening 5.28km were driven competitively last year but the rest of the test was used as a liaison section. The major hazards are concrete gutters which cross the road, allowing water to flow over the track without washing the surface away. There are 11 in total and nine in just one single 2.5km section! There is plenty to hit on the road sides and anyone running wide could be punished hard.

After going fastest in today’s opening special stage, New Zealander Paddon closed the gap on Latvala to just 6.7sec with another victory in the high altitude test from Los Gigantes to Cantera El Condor, the longest of the weekend.

Latvala responded in the last stage of the loop from Boca del Arroyo to Bajo de Pungo to go fastest in his Volkswagen Polo R. He was 6.6sec up on third-quickest Paddon and the margin widened to 13.3sec as drivers returned to service in Villa Carlos Paz.

“It was a fantastic performance from Hayden in the first two stages, I wasn’t able to match him,” admitted Latvala. “I struggled with the pace note in the long stage, they were too quick and we had a couple of moments but the last one was better.”

Paddon admitted the final twisty stage didn’t suit his Hyundai i20 as much as the previous two faster tests.

“We have to work on that but it was a positive morning and we need to keep the pressure on. Unless Jari-Matti makes a mistake it will be difficult to catch him but if the gap stays around 10sec he knows he can’t make a mistake,” said Paddon.

Opening the roads in drying conditions cost Sébastien Ogier dear. He yielded 24sec to Paddon in SS11 and 10sec to team-mate Latvala in SS12 to fall back from the lead fight. Ogier was 32.3sec behind Paddon and falling into the clutches of Andreas Mikkelsen.

Mikkelsen has adopted a cautious policy all weekend, but the Norwegian closed to within 7.4sec of Ogier. Dani Sordo was fifth in his i20 and Mads Østberg sixth in a Ford Fiesta RS.

Seventh-placed Henning Solberg (below) lost almost 90sec wrestling his Fiesta RS with broken power steering and local hero Marcos Ligato closed to within 25.8sec, having earlier overhauled Eric Camilli. Thierry Neuville completed the top 10. 

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