SS9/10: Tänak’s double

Ott Tänak won the opening two speed tests on Saturday morning to extend his YPF Rally Argentina lead to more than half a minute.

Stage info: SS9/10

SS9: Tanti / Mataderos 1, 13.92km
This stage integrates sections from several different tests into a new format. It starts in the middle of Tanti on asphalt before threading out of town and joining the Los Gigantes mountain road. Wide tracks and sweeping uphill hairpins, set against stunning mountain scenery, lead through El Durazno and onwards to the finish in Mataderos. In 2017 this test formed part of a liaison section between stages.

SS10: Los Gigantes / Cuchilla Nevada 1, 16.02km
Los Gigantes has previously hosted the Dakar Rally and covers barren and remote territory as it peaks at 1912 metres after 12.40km of climbing from the start on bumpy, sandy and twisty roads. It mixes wide and fast sections with twisty parts and covers the opening segment of a much longer stage driven 12 months ago.

He stopped the clocks 3.8sec quicker than second overall Kris Meeke in the Tanti to Mataderos special stage. He then blitzed the Northern Ireland driver by 7.5sec in the foggy test from Los Gigantes to Cuchilla Nevada to lead by 34.0sec.

“The feeling is good in the car but there is no visibility any more for the last 4km. I’m not happy about the fog but I’m happy about the feeling,” said the Toyota Yaris pilot.

Conditions varied from car to car as the fog swirled around the mountains and Thierry Neuville made the best of improved conditions to post second fastest time in Los Gigantes to demote Hyundai i20 team-mate Dani Sordo from third.

“I slowed down a bit 750 metres from the finish because of a note mix-up but it’s all good,” said Neuville, who closed to within 3.5sec of Meeke in the standings and heads Sordo by 2.7sec.

The Spaniard posted top four times in both stages to stretch his advantage over championship leader Sébastien Ogier’s Ford Fiesta to 15.2sec.

Ireland’s Craig Breen completed the top six in a Citroën C3. The Irishman was unhappy with his rhythm and changing his differential set-up in an attempt to gain confidence. He trailed Ogier by 11.0sec.

Andreas Mikkelsen completed Los Gigantes with the left rear tyre of his i20 off the rim. The reason? “I just followed the trip system in the fog and suddenly the corner was there!” he said. He’s right to sound surprised as TV footage showed his car on two wheels…..

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