Al-Kuwari builds
strong WRC 2 lead

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari held a comfortable lead of almost two minutes in WRC 2 after Friday’s opening leg of XION Rally Argentina – despite not winning a stage.

Consistency paid dividends for the Qatari driver who escaped the dramas that afflicted his rivals in incredibly rough conditions to move to the front midway through the leg in his Ford Fiesta RRC.

“It was a good day, but there are a lot of people behind pushing. Tomorrow I have to drive with my head,” he said after returning to the overnight halt in Villa Carlos Paz.

Yurii Protasov was the fastest driver, the Ukrainian winning four of today’s five tests to add to his victory in last night’s curtain-raising super special stage in Merlo.

But his Fiesta RRC lies 1min 57.0sec behind Al-Kuwari after Protasov battled the odds to stay in the rally.

His rear right wheel, damper, suspension arm and driveshaft flew off the car two corners from the end of this morning’s second stage. After completing the test, and setting fastest time, Protasov ran 500 metres into the stage to locate the unit in a field.

Yurii Protasov - determined effort

He wheeled it out before he and co-driver Pavlo Cherepin refitted it, and they limped back to the service park where mechanics restored the car to health. A 3min 10sec penalty meant the lead was gone but Protasov set about chasing Al-Kuwari, despite a puncture in tonight’s final stage.

Paraguay’s Diego Dominguez was third in a Fiesta R5 after setting top three times, including a win, on every stage. He was 38.7sec behind Protasov and 2min 44.1sec ahead of Jari Ketomaa, who lost time with a puncture and brake problems.

Simone Tempestini was fifth and leading the Production Car category within WRC 2, and Didier Arias completed the top six.

Radik Shaymiev and Gianluca Linari both retired, while Nicolas Fuchs lost many minutes with a broken steering rack and two punctures in today’s opening stage.

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