SS6/7: Evans remains in control
Elfyn Evans preserved his unbeaten record at YPF Rally Argentina on Friday as he extended his lead closer to the minute mark this afternoon.
Stage info: SS6 / SS7
SS6: San Agustin - Villa General Belgrano 2, 19.95km
This test is new for many, as it hasn’t been tackled since 2008. A tough new 3.20km section has been added at the start, featuring wide roads but with large chunks of bedrock breaking the surface. It becomes technical and twisty until 12km, at which point it opens out and becomes smoother with fast crests and flowing corners. It is one of the rally’s most picturesque tests, with stunning views of the Calamuchita Valley.
SS7: Amboy - Santa Monica 2, 20.44km
This famous stage is one of the rally’s highlights. It is blisteringly fast on mainly smooth and sandy roads. Even the tighter narrow sections are quick as they twist first one way and then the other as the road rises and falls on a bumpy surface. It ends with a spectacular flat-out blast via two sixth gear corners before jumping over the finish at a cattle grid.
The Welshman won all four morning speed tests of today’s first full day of competition in his Ford Fiesta. He continued in the same fashion by stopping the clock fastest in the repeat of the San Agustin - Villa General Belgrano and Amboy - Santa Monica special stages.
He had to share fastest time in Amboy with a rejuvenated Hayden Paddon, but Evans’ lead rose to 47.7sec over Mads Østberg, who displaced Jari-Matti Latvala in second place.
“We didn’t do anything silly in there,” said Evans at the finish of Amboy. “In the previous stage I thought perhaps I did too much so I decided to drive quickly, but not be as hard on the car. This one was smoother and the grip was good too.”
Third in both stages helped Østberg move 9.2sec ahead of Latvala. “After such a long time out of the car we picked a good strategy before the rally. It’s nice when you pick a plan and it works,” said the Fiesta driver.
An overheating engine slowed Latvala’s Toyota Yaris in San Agustin. He drove much of the stage in ‘road’ mode and lost 15sec. Telephone conversations with his engineers between the stages enabled Latvala to make repairs and he was back on the pace in Amboy.
The next three crews were covered by just 1.2sec in the standings. Ott Tänak lost places to both Sébastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville in San Agustin, but regained fourth with fourth fastest time in Amboy. The Estonian was 0.1sec ahead of Neuville and 1.2 up on Ogier.
Neuville also reported an overheating engine in San Agustin but the Belgian had problems of a different nature in the next test. His Hyundai i20, battered by the rough morning roads, was leaking dust into the cockpit and it found its way into his eyes.
SS4/5: Clean sweep for Evans
Meeke and Breen retire
SS2/3: Evans on top in Argentina
Early morning double for Welshman
SS1: Ogier sets early pace
Championship leader wins opener in Argentina