Sunday | 24 Apr 2016

SS16: Gearchange scare for Paddon

Leader Hayden Paddon yielded more than seven seconds to the chasing Sébastien Ogier in Sunday morning’s opening speed test at YPF Rally Argentina after stalling twice in the opening few kilometres.

Stage info: SS16

El Condor - Copina, 16.32km
One of the most famous roads in the WRC. Located in the Traslasierra mountains, it boasts stunning views in good weather, but fog and rain transform it into hell. At the start it winds around massive rocks, on which huge crowds perch roadside, before descending on a rough, rock-strewn road across famous iron bridges which hang from canyons. It is smoother near the end and drops 746 metres from start to finish.

A worried Paddon highlighted gearchange problems in his Hyundai i20 after finishing the classic El Condor stage, which was blighted by thick fog at the start. His overnight advantage of 29.8sec was cut to 22.4sec with two tests remaining.

“A terrible stage,” said Paddon. “Conditions are incredible and I couldn’t see anything at the top. Twice the car went into neutral when I changed down to first gear in hairpins and I had to reset before continuing. Now we’re aware of it, we’ll have to deal with it.”

Visibility changed constantly in the strong winds but Ogier, starting just three minutes earlier than Paddon was similarly affected in his Volkswagen Polo R.

“It was really, really bad and there were so many rocks on the road. It’s not a stage that you want to push on so I’m happy to make it through,” said the championship leader.

Third-placed Andreas Mikkelsen dropped 10sec after spinning near the start while Mads Østberg, lying fifth, dropped more than 30sec after going off.

“There was a misunderstanding inside the car. I wasn’t aware there was a corner when there was and I didn’t see it. Spectators got us back on the road,” explained the Norwegian.

Fastest time went to road opener Ott Tänak, the Estonian 3.0sec quicker than Ogier with Mikkelsen third.

Jari-Matti Latvala restarted after crashing out of the lead yesterday afternoon but the Finn admitted he was not pushing. “Mechanically the team did a very good job to repair the car, but we have to be careful. We’re not driving at rally speed, we’re more cruising,” he said.

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