Jari-Matti Latvala completed back-to-back stage wins to lead YPF Rally Argentina at the midpoint of Friday’s opening leg.
Stage info: SS4 / SS5
SS4: Santa Rosa - San Agustin 1, 23.85km
It seems the whole of Argentina packs onto the high banking alongside the iconic watersplash 650 metres after the start, where Petter Solberg famously rolled in 1999. While this river crossing is relatively simple, the next at 1.4km is trickier and could cause issues due to its depth. It’s a fast, open stage on smooth sandy roads, although it becomes bumpier towards the finish.
SS5: Super Especial Fernet Branca 1, 6.04km
The popular gravel super special stage at the theme park on the edge of Villa Carlos Paz is used in the same format as last year. Two cars at a time drive the twisty circuit which mixes fast corners with slower bends, and also has a jump and a crossover bridge. It’s always a big hit with the fans.
Having topped the times in SS3, the Volkswagen Polo R pilot was quickest in Santa Rosa - San Augustin and second in the Fernet Branca super special stage on the edge of host town Villa Carlos Paz to lead Hayden Paddon by 5.4sec.
Latvala tweaked his back after hitting a rock on the driving line near the end of SS3 but the Finn was content with his morning.
“It was my plan to take the first stage this morning steadily because it was the roughest. We started to go faster after that and the remaining stages went well. I was pushing and not hesitating!” said the Finn.
Paddon relished his Hyundai i20 on the fast roads but was less comfortable in the rough sections. He admitted to several small mistakes but headed championship leader Sébastien Ogier by 1.5sec. Ogier had no problems in his Polo R but, as road opener, he was not looking forward to sweeping the gravel on the second pass of the stages.
Andreas Mikkelsen was a further 9.9sec back in fourth ahead of Dani Sordo, who dropped time and a place when the throttle pedal of his Hyundai i20 stuck open in Santa Rosa.
Mads Østberg climbed to sixth in a Ford Fiesta RS following the demise of Ott Tänak. A jammed alternator stopped the Estonian after Santa Rosa and although he tried to make repairs (below), his Fiesta RS stopped again en route to the morning’s final test.
Henning Solberg was seventh with Lorenzo Bertelli, Eric Camilli and Marcos Ligato completing the leaderboard. Local hero Ligato went off following a watersplash in Santa Rosa. The impact pushed his DS 3’s front bumper against the radiator intake and he stopped to remove it, losing three minutes.
Thierry Neuville lost six minutes after his i20 stopped several times in Santa Rosa with an electrical problem. “I had to get out and found a loose connection. Yesterday in shakedown we had problems, but I’m not sure this is the same,” explained the Belgian, who recovered to win the super special stage.