When I wrote that this is the modern-day Acropolis Rally, I meant it. It’s tough on the cars and drivers. We saw all sorts of problems, and through it all, the margin between first and second place came down to just seven tenths of a second.
A reminder then of the 18 stages that made this year’s Rally Argentina such a thriller!
FRIDAY 28 APRIL
7.00am: Service A (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)
8.38am: SS2 – San Agustin – Villa General Belgrano 1 (19.95km)
9.41am: SS3 – Amboy / Santa Monica 1 (20.44km)
10.24am: SS4 – Santa Rosa / San Agustin 1 (23.85km)
12.29pm: SS5 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 1 (6.04km)
1.09pm: Service B (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)
3.02pm: SS6 – San Agustin – Villa General Belgrano 2 (19.95km)
4.05pm: SS7 – Amboy / Santa Monica 2 (20.44km)
4.48pm: SS8 – Santa Rosa / San Agustin 2 (23.85km)
7.08pm: SS9 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 2 (6.04km)
7.43pm: Flexi Service C (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)
SATURDAY 29 APRIL
7.20am: Service D (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)
8.08am: SS10 – Tanti – Villa Bustos 1 (20.80km)
9.21am: SS11 – Los Gigantes – Cantera El Condor 1 (38.68km)
10.14am: SS12 – Boca del Arroyo – Bajo del Pungo 1 (20.52km)
12.04pm: Service E (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)
1.08pm: SS13 – Tanti – Villa Bustos 2 (20.80km)
2.21pm: SS14 – Los Gigantes – Cantera El Condor 2 (38.68km)
3.14pm: SS15 – Boca del Arroyo – Bajo del Pungo 2 (20.52km)
5.04pm: Flexi Service F (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)
SUNDAY 30 APRIL
7.15am: Service G (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)
9.13am: SS16 – El Condor – Copina (16.32km)
10.56am: SS17 – Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare (22.64km)
12.18pm: SS18 – Power Stage El Condor (16.32km)
1.41pm: Service H (Villa Carlos Paz – 10 min)
On Thursday morning shakedown showed that once again the cars were pretty close to each other.
1. Latvala 4:02.0
2. Paddon 4:02.1
3. Sordo 4:02.2
4. Neuville 4:02.6
5. Ogier 4:03.0
6. Ostberg 4:03.4
7. Meeke 4:03.5
8. Breen 4:04.4
9. Tanak 4:05.3
10. Hanninen 4:06.4
The crews would enter in championship position.
Ogier, Latvala, Neuville, Tanak, Sordo, Breen, Meeke, Paddon, Evans, Hanninen, Ostberg, Bertelli
Stage one was held on the Thursday evening and the short 1,75km stage would confirm the close pace!
The leaderboard would look as so.
1. Ogier 1:53.8
2. Evans +0:00,9
3. Sordo +0:00,9
4. Neuville +0:01,6
5. Latvala +0:02,1
6. Ostberg +0:02,4
7. Paddon +0:02,5
8. Meeke +0:02,7
9. Tanak +0:03,1
10. Hanninen +0:03,8
It was a cold start on Friday morning and Elfyn Evans in his D-Mack shod Fiesta would power through and take the lead on the 19,95km stage at an average speed of 94,2km. Clearly road position would be an advantage to those further down in the championship standings. Ogier could only manage seventh fastest after sliding wide on a left-hander. Kris was the closest challenger to the young welsh wizard, just a few seconds behind in his Citroen C3. Dani was also enjoying a good start to the event! Ogier would slide wide after a wrong pacenote, and would drop some time. Hayden would roll in this stage, but not in a big way. He would lose two and a half minutes though.
SS2 – San Agustin – Villa General Belgrano 1 (19,95km)
1. Evans – 12:42,3 (94,2kph)
2. Meeke +0:04,6
3. Sordo +0:06,9
Stage three next of course, and there was drama for Dani, who ran wide and damaged a steering arm. Whilst he replaced it, he would lose 11 minutes!
SS3 – Amboy – Saint Monica 1 (20,44km)
1. Evans – 10:18,8 (118,9kph)
2. Meeke +0:02,3
3. Tanak +0:02,7
Stage four next, and there would be big drama for both Kris and Craig in their Citroen’s! Kris would roll in the stage after hitting a bump in the road which launched the car into a big roll. Incredibly, Craig would hit the same bump, and this would damage his gearbox leaving him stuck in fifth gear. With the demise of Kris, Jari-Matti would move into second place overall and Mads third! His secret plan was working well!
SS4 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 1 (23,85km)
1. Evans – 13:44,8 (104,1kph)
2. Latvala +0:02,8
3. Tanak +0:05,6
The short six km stage before service was next. Elfyn was driving really well and now had increased his lead to thirty seconds!
SS5 – Super Especial Parque Tematico (6,04km)
1. Evans – 4:43,5 (76,7kph)
2. Neuville +0:02,2
3. Ostberg +0:03,4
Stage six then, and Jari-Matti would get some problems with overheating in his Toyota, and he just could not understand why there was a problem! It was a great time though for Mads, and he would move ahead of Jari-Matti into second place overall!
SS6 – San Agustin – Villa General Belgrano 2 (19,95km)
1. Evans – 12:35,9 (95,0kph)
2. Neuville +0:08,7
3. Ostberg +0:12,0
Stage seven next and Seb would start to push hard and move up as would Thierry in his Hyundai. Hayden would go well though here as well, clearly getting back in the groove.
SS7 – Amboy – Santa Monica 2 (20,44km)
1. Evans – 10:21,1 (118,5kph)
2. Paddon +0:00,0
3. Ostberg +0:00,1
Hayden would go one better in the next stage, becoming the first driver to beat Elfyn all day in a stage. The big mover was Thierry, who moved from fifth overall, into third and only ten seconds behind the flying Mads!
SS8 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 2 (23,85km)
1. Paddon – 13:39,0 (104,8kph)
2. Evans +0:04,0
3. Neuville +0:07,1
So the final stage of the day, and this would be won by Thierry, but Elfyn would remain in the lead, from Mads, who was now just five seconds ahead of Thierry.
SS9 – Super Especial Parque Tematico 2 (6,04km)
1. Neuville – 4:49,4 (75,1kph)
2. Latvala +0:00,3
3. Ogier +0:01,4
Here’s the thoughts then of the top three at the end of the first day.
Elfyn Evans (1st) said:
“It’s been a really positive day for us – everything has been working well and we got ourselves into a pretty good rhythm from the word go. I’ve really enjoyed the driving and what more can I say…? The car has performed really well and the driver’s not been too bad either!
“We’re really glad to be here with no dramas and in such a strong position. But we need to remember that there is still a long way to go. The stages tomorrow are really nice, but quite challenging and we’re expecting another tough day out there which is always the case in Argentina.
“But right now, it feels pretty good. Tomorrow, we just need to go out there and continue to enjoy it. We’ll try not to think too much about the result and just focus on ourselves as if it’s a brand new day.”
Mads Østberg (2nd) said:
I had a good feeling before the start, but still a bit unsure of where we would find ourselves after the first stages as I have not competed since Sweden. But the day has been good and has confirmed that the development work we have done on the car, has been successful
The result today is a team effort. We have a small but competent team, and everybody is working in the same direction. I got a very good feeling during our test in Portugal in the beginning of April, when I felt that the whole team worked according to my own ideas for set-up of the car. We all have the same goal and that is to fight for podiums in the WRC, which is exactly what we are doing right now.
I really didn`t know what to expect, even if I felt the speed was good. Now I have got that confirmation and we will continue working to go even faster. Tomorrow will be a long and tough day and tyre choice and strategy will be important, but we will push as hard as we can to stay in the fight for a podium.
Thierry Neuville (3rd) commented:
“We are pretty happy to end today in third place overall considering just how difficult it has been for everyone. Argentina has always been a demanding event but that is the case even more so this weekend. We had a hard morning loop. A lot of things happened in the stages so we were pleased to make it to service. We picked up some damage to the rear damper, which meant we couldn’t push and didn’t feel as comfortable. The mechanics did an exceptional job over lunchtime to get all our team’s cars ready for the afternoon. Although it was still tricky, I felt better and we could make up some positions to keep firmly in the podium fight. There’s a long way to go!”
Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:
“Like expected, it’s been a tough day and difficult for everyone. Many people had a lot of trouble and, on top of that, we knew that we would suffer from opening the road. We were fighting as much as we could and I’m happy with where we are tonight. We’re still in a good fight for the podium and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.
“We will keep pushing and tomorrow should be a much more enjoyable day. These long stages are very beautiful and I’m sure we will have good fun driving them.
“Elfyn has had incredible speed today and no one could match his performance. It’s been an impressive drive from him and Dan. If they continue like this then no one will have a chance of catching them. But of course, we always need to remember that there is still a long way to go.”
Ott Tänak (5th) said:
“It’s been a tricky day. We knew that this rally would be hard on the cars and my plan was always to drive quite safely and to look after the car. Maybe we were a bit too cautious in some of the rougher sections, but we made it through which has been the most important thing today.
“On the smoother sections, we’ve still been driving quite fast and the times have been okay so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to fight for at least second place tomorrow.
“It’s still all very close and anything can happen. Tomorrow’s stages aren’t as rough as the ones we saw today and they should be easier on the cars – and for sure more enjoyable to drive.
“There’s still a long way to go but I’m looking forward to a good battle tomorrow.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala (6th)
“I was surprised by how rough it was right from the very first stage: we hit the sump guard hard in about five places, so I knew it was going to be tough. In the afternoon conditions were even rougher, with all the cars having already passed through the stage once, so we raised our car to play safe. This set-up was definitely safer, but I didn’t feel so confident with it. On stage eight we were avoiding a rock, went wide, and put the tyre off the rim. There were about 15 kilometres to go and we drove on the rim to the finish, which is where we lost the time. That was bad luck, but at least we are still here and ready to improve some more over the next challenging two days.”
Juho Hänninen (9th)
“It was really rough all day, which meant that you focused simply on getting through the stages. In the morning, we had a power loss, which cost us a bit of time, but we were able to find the problem and fix it at service easily. Then we had no issues for the rest of the day. In the morning, we also lost part of the aero package over the bumps: it made the handling quite tricky but it was still OK. Tomorrow, we will hopefully be able to make up some more places: this is definitely a rally of endurance.”
Hayden Paddon (7th) said: “Things definitely went better in the afternoon! Conditions have been very rough out there today. It’s a lot tougher this year, especially with the extra speed for the new cars. In the first stage of the day, we were caught out at a hairpin and the car rolled. It was very slow and thankfully we could get out and get it back over. The car wasn’t quite as competitive as it was before but we were still in the rally. The team worked fantastically at service to get us ready for the afternoon. It is good to take our first stage win of the season, but we know this will be a rally of attrition so we have plenty still to fight for.”
Dani Sordo (13th) said: “It was really bad luck! There were lots of loose rocks and I knew it would be hard on the cars. We reached a fast-right-hand corner in the second stage this morning and touched something on the inside. The result was a broken steering arm, which we had to stop and fix. We just lost so much time. It’s hugely disappointing because I really enjoy this rally and the car felt quick. Thanks to the team, we could continue into the afternoon. My aim now is to try and make the most of the weekend and see what we can pick up.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“This fourth stage turned into something of a nightmare for the team, since both cars were forced to retire at the same time. It’s a shame because before that, my pace was good and I was holding second place behind Elfyn. Then we were surprised by this bump in the road: it just launched the car and I couldn’t regain control before the next corner. We hit the bank on the outside of the corner and rolled. It wasn’t a massive crash, but it did a lot of damage to the car.”
“Right from the start this morning, I had moments in several places, the road surface was just so difficult to judge. I wasn’t pushing that much, but I knew that’s what I needed to do and stay patient. On the fourth stage, I was caught out by this compression on a fast-left-hand corner. The bottom of the car hit the ground hard and that damaged the gearbox. We tried to keep going to make it to service, but oil leaked out and we had to retire. We’ll be back tomorrow to keep picking up experience.”
Top ten at the end of the first day
1. Evans 1:24:55,4
2. Ostberg +0:55,7
3. Neuville +1:00,7
4. Ogier +1:06,7
5. Tanak +1:11,3
6. Latvala +1:29,9
7. Paddon +3:41,8
8. Bertelli +4:13,9
9. Hanninen +4:48,6
10. Tidemand +6:32.3
Day two then and could anyone catch Elfyn and Dan in their D-Mack Fiesta with the six stages and 160km of stages? Seb didn’t have a good start and had to avoid a dog and then he got stuck in a water splash, losing him more time. Thierry had a huge moment on the exit of a right-hander, nearly spinning which caused a puncture on the rear right tyre. The sun was so low, that he couldn’t see the apex of the corner and went in too fast. In the same stage Mads lost his rear diffuser and then also started to spin in the same corner as Thierry. He’d also started to get hydraulic problems, meaning that his handbrake was not working and the centre diff was affected as well. Elfyn did a great stage and won it, extending his lead over Thierry, but how impressive was the Belgian, only eight tenths down from the young Welshman?! Kris returned to the fray with a rebuilt C3, going third fastest.
SS10 – Tanti – Villa Bustos 1 (20,8km)
1. Evans – 11:00,2 (113,4kph)
2. Neuville +0:00,8
3. Meeke +0:02,1
Kris would win stage eleven, showing good pace in his Citroen and Ott would go ahead of Seb in this stage as well and in doing so close on Mads who was really struggling without his rear diffuser.
SS11 – Los Gigantes – Cantera El Condor 1 (38,68km)
1. Meeke – 20:01,6 (115,9kph)
2. Neuville +0:00,6
3. Tanak +0:01,5
Stage twelve would see another mistake from Seb, running wide and having to rejoin the road, costing him more precious seconds. Kris won the stage, with Mads just behind, clearly getting a handle of his car woes. There was a little drama though for Elfyn who misheard a note from Dan and they picked up a puncture on the right rear.
SS12 – Boca del Arroyo – Bajo del Pungo 1 (20,52km)
1. Meeke – 13:18,2 (92,5kph)
2. Ostberg +0:01,1
3. Tanak +0:01,8
Stage thirteen now and Ott was on a mission targeting both Mads and Thierry ahead of him. The smoother roads were suiting his style and he got past Mads into third place and was only nine seconds down on Thierry.
SS13 – Tanti – Villa Bustos 2 (20,8km)
1. Tanak – 10:47,9 (115,6kph)
2. Ogier +0:01,2
3. Meeke +0:01,8
Stage fourteen would see the retirement of Mads. He hit a rock and damaged the right-rear suspension. A sorry end after a massively heroic drive. Thierry was right in the groove now and closing on Elfyn. Hardly a surprise given that he’d lost downforce at the rear of the car. Sadly, this was the stage which saw Kris roll spectacularly out. The car was totaled and they were out.
SS14 – Los Gigantes – Cantera El Condor 2 (38,68km)
1. Tanak – 19:45,5 (117,5kph)
2. Neuville +0:00,0
3. Paddon +0:02,0
Stage fifteen would see Thierry close even more, going nearly 19 seconds faster than Elfyn with Ott and Hayden second and third fastest.
SS 15 – Boca del Arroyo – Bajo del Pungo 1 (20,52km)
1. Neuville 12:59,5 (94,8kph)
2. Tanak +0:06,9
3. Paddon +0:10,4
That was the last stage of the day, and Elfyns’ lead was just 11.9 seconds. Could he hang on and take his maiden WRC victory, or would Thierry nick it?
1. Evans 2:40:27,3
2. Neuville +0:30,4
3. Tanak +0:38,8
4. Ogier +0:57,2
5. Latvala +1:25,1
6. Paddon +4:35,2
7. Bertelli +8:02,0
8. Hanninen +8:43,4
9. Sordo +13:20,3
10. Tidemand +13:57.5
Let’s hear then from all of the drivers, starting with the top three.
Elfyn Evans (1st) said:
“We’ve not had the best of days with a few issues here and there. Some small mistake from myself and a few little niggles with the car have dented our advantage quite a lot, but it’s still an advantage and it’s all to play for tomorrow.
“We’re here to do a job so we’ll focus on that and do the best we possibly can. There’s still a hard 50 kilometres to go and anything can happen, but we’ll be giving it our all.
“After all the hard work over the past two days, we didn’t come here to finish second. If Thierry wants this victory, we’re going to make him fight for it!”
Thierry Neuville (2nd) commented:
“We couldn’t have asked for more from our Saturday. The day didn’t start too well after I got caught out on the opening stage, and picked up a puncture. Things improved after that and we were able to catch Mads to extend our grasp on second place. The balance of the car was good and for the most part I felt comfortable. We gave a bit of a push in the final stages to try and reduce the gap to Elfyn, which we were able to do. The aim is always to win but it’s going to be a tough fight, not only for the victory but also to defend our current position from those chasing behind us. We will see what happens!”
Ott Tänak (3rd) said:
“It was always the plan to play it quite safe through the first day. Maybe we were a bit too cautious in places, but today it was a lot easier on the car and we could enjoy the driving a lot more.
“I think it was a good drive from us today. We made some quite big changes to the car during service and things got even better in the afternoon.
“Tomorrow will be a really tough day with two very tricky stages. In these stages, 20 seconds is nothing so we need to keep going and keep concentrated. Anything is possible so we’ll keep focused and keep pushing.”
Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:
“We’ve had some small issues today and struggled to find the speed that we wanted. This morning we had some problems with the rear of the car. It felt very unstable but the team changed everything during the midday service and it felt a lot better after that.
“We had a good first stage in the afternoon, but I started to struggle again towards the end of the loop. During the last stage, in particular we had massive wheel-spin which knocked our confidence.
“It’s not been the day we wanted and we’re not in the best position to fight for the podium, but with these two stages a lot can still happen. Our target will be to get through them without issue and then see what we can gain from the Power Stage. We still have to push, because anything can still happen.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)
“We started the day really well, although in the morning it was tricky to see because the sun was in my eyes. The second stage of the morning loop was actually where I had an accident last year, so I was maybe a little bit too careful. We’re more or less there on pace, but we’re missing just a little bit; I’m not entirely sure what it is. I seem to be losing small chunks of time to the leaders; I think maybe through being a little bit too aggressive in the corners. But still we’re going to keep the pressure on and see how it goes. The final day tomorrow is a bit shorter, but it’s still going to be one of the most challenging days of the whole rally.”
Juho Hänninen (7th)
“The car felt a bit nervous today in the rough conditions but it was reliable, although not so easy to drive. I just wanted to be careful and make sure that we got to the end with no problems. In the end, we managed to do that and even make up some places. I’ve obviously been talking with the engineers and we think we can make some changes to make the car better for me tomorrow. Again, the priority will be to have a clean day and try to score some points.”
Hayden Paddon (6th) said:
“I was happy with our speed in the morning loop, considering our road position. We had a good feeling in the car and were preparing to push in the afternoon. A broken roll bar in the first stage of the repeat loop was definitely not what we wanted. We had to fix that and in doing so we were six minutes late to check-in for the following stage, incurring a time penalty. Generally, though, the stages today were smooth, flowing and enjoyable to drive. There was still a bit of frustration over what happened on Friday because without that we could have been in the fight for second place – and, from there, who knows what could have happened. We can’t dwell on that, though. We will instead aim to finish the rally strongly and secure some valuable Championship points for a top-six finish.”
Dani Sordo (9th) said: “Being first on the road today made it almost impossible to set good times, but these are the rules. We’ve had very little luck this weekend, but I am sure it will be better next time. We simply wanted to go out there and enjoy ourselves. We have benefited from other crews’ misfortune to make up some positions, and we are now inside the top-ten. Tomorrow, we will adopt a similar approach, trying to bring the car home safely and then look forward to Portugal.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“This morning, I was pleased to be able to repay my mechanics for the incredible job they did in repairing the car last night with two stage wins. It was also good to be able to contest these stages, which are new for all the crews, and find some good pace with the car again. On SS14, I lost control of the car on a very fast corner. I oversteered, the car span and we hit a bank. We were then thrown into a series of rolls…”
The final day dawned bright and warm. Thierry was poised, but could Elfyn get that win?
Stage 16 beckoned and Ott continued his push, winning the stage. Elfyn lost more time, after experiencing brakes that would not work at first, but then came back to him later in the stage. His lead was now 9 seconds.
SS16 El Condor – Copina (16,32km)
1. Tanak 13:07,0
2. Neuville +0:01,3
3. Evans +0:03,8
Stage 17 and Thierry flew through the stage, an incredible 8.4 seconds faster and this meant that the gap was just 6 tenths of a second, with Elfyn just in the lead. Elfyn’s car started to overheat again. One stage remained.
SS17 Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare (22,64km)
1. Neuville 18:05,0 (75,1kph)
2. Evans +0:08.4
3. Breen +0:11,7
It was time for the final stage and Thierry won the stage. The question was, could Elfyn do enough to keep the Hyundai driver behind? Well, 5.7km into the stage, Elfyn was 3.1 seconds up on Thierry! Mega drive! Coming to a bridge, the Fiesta rear slid and hit the post. He lost all of his advantage there sadly crossing the line 1.3 seconds slower in the stage. Thierry had won the event by seven tenths of a second, the closest finish for six years!
SS18 El Condor (16,32km)
1. Neuville 3:38:10.6
2. Evans +0.7
3. Tanak +29.9
It’s his second victory in a row and takes him closer to second place in the world championship. Let’s hear what the top three had to say then.
Thierry Neuville (1st) commented:
“I cannot believe it. I have never had such a nerve-wracking final few minutes of a rally in my career. It’s an amazing result and I have to say thanks first of all to the team for everything they’ve done. Congratulations also to Elfyn, who put up an incredible fight this weekend. I gave it absolutely everything I had in today’s final stages. After the difficult start to the rally, I would have been happy to take second but it’s a special feeling to win again. It has been an exciting but crazy rally from the start, so to come away with the victory is fantastic. We wanted to build up our momentum after Corsica and this was the perfect way to do just that. To have the Power Stage win is just the icing on the cake and gives us a very important boost in the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championship. We could not have asked for more.”
Elfyn Evans (2nd) said:
“We’ve got mixed emotions at the end of this one. It’s obviously disappointing to have missed out on victory by such a fine margin but it was definitely a rally of two halves.
“Thierry had his own problems on Friday whilst we had a really good day and were able to establish a fairly reasonable lead. But it was a case of role reversal over the next two days.
“Thierry drove really well and no one can take that away from him, but we had a fair amount of problems – some self-inflicted and some not. To be honest, we didn’t have a clean run since the opening stage on Saturday morning so it was a big push to keep the battle so close.
“It’s a long story and I could probably write a list as long as my arm for why we didn’t manage to make it stick this weekend – but all credit to Thierry. He’s driven really well and from our side there are still a lot of positives that we can take away.
“When everything was working well, our speed was really strong. We just need to make sure that we learn from this weekend and come back stronger.”
Ott Tänak (3rd) said:
“It’s been a very good weekend for us. In the past I’ve not been so lucky here so we decided to change the approach and had a clear strategy of what we wanted to do.
“We played it safe through the rough stages on Friday – maybe a bit too safe to be honest as we gave a lot of time away. But since Saturday morning when the conditions became a lot smoother we have been on the pace.
“The guys at the front have been really on it today so we weren’t able to build on third position, but we come away with another podium and some good points so we’re happy with that.
“Coming up next, Portugal is one of my favourite rallies. I’m really excited to get back to Europe and tackle some of the more ‘traditional’ gravel events. We’re in a strong position in both championships and the plan will be to build on that as the season continues.”
The rest of the drivers
Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:
“It’s been a very difficult weekend for us. For much of the rally we’ve had a strange feeling with the car and lacked confidence as a result. For the moment, we’re not sure what is causing the issue so we’ll have to look into that before the next event and ensure we get to the bottom of it.
“Regarding the hard weekend, we’ve had, to score 14 points is not too bad and we’re still leading the championship which is the most important thing.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)
“The final day of the rally was consistent. I tried not to be a superhero and just finish the rally safely! Our car is very tough, we can say that for sure, and we certainly improved the performance compared to the last gravel round in Mexico. We got one point for the Power Stage and took fifth overall, but the most important thing was that we kept our consistent run of points that we had from Monte-Carlo, and so the championship stays open. It’s incredible, but in all of my career I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to the front after just five rallies. Now I’m looking forward to the next test and the next rally, so that we can keep on making the car better.”
Juho Hänninen (7th)
“Our last day went without a problem and that was good because I needed to finish. We drove quite carefully as there was some big gaps in front and behind us, so no point in taking any risks. El Condor was actually much rougher than I expected, so my goal was just to bring the car back in one piece. In general this has been an extremely tough and demanding rally, with some especially rough roads, but now we have got to the end of it, scored some points, and learned a lot, so I am happy.”
Hayden Paddon (6th) said: “You could not have written a script more opposite to what we had here last season. We’ve gone from a career high to a result that is much lower on the scale. I just can’t believe our luck. Our issue on Friday was long behind us as we started to show some improved performance. There was not much we could do about our position but we wanted to build a rhythm. I didn’t have the feeling with the car in this morning’s stages, and that culminated with a power steering problem in the Power Stage. We struggled to the finish but sixth place is not where we want to be.”
Dani Sordo (8th) said: “It has been a horrible weekend for us. The rally was over almost as soon as it had begun, really. When you lose so much time early on in the event, as we did, it is impossible to regain that. We just had to concentrate on bringing the car to the end but even that was difficult. The puncture on El Condor came at the beginning of the stage, and it typified our luck this weekend. Incredibly unfortunate and it’s a shame because I feel that we had the car to do better. I just want to put this behind us and look ahead to Portugal.”
Well, what an amazing event! Just incredible. Elfyn will win this season I believe. What about Thierry as well? He’s definitely offering up a challenge for this year’s title. Seb is doing just enough to remain in front with his fourth-place finish. Finally, Kris and Citroen, what must they be thinking? Their season has to be due some luck soon.
1. Neuville 3:38:10.6
2. Evans +0.7
3. Tänak +29.9
4. Ogier +1:24.7
5. Latvala +1:48.1
6. Paddon +7:42.7
7. Hänninen +11:16.9
8. Sordo +14:44.1
9. Østberg +15:11.3
10. Tidemand +17:32.1
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Sébastien Ogier – 102 points
2. Jari-Matti Latvala – 86 points
3. Thierry Neuville – 84 points
4. Ott Tanak – 66 points
5. Dani Sordo – 51 points
6. Elfyn Evans – 42 points
7. CRAIG BREEN – 33 points
8. Hayden Paddon – 33 points
9. KRIS MEEKE – 27 points
10. Juho Hanninen – 15 points
11. Andreas Mikkelsen – 12 points
12. STEPHANE LEFEBVRE – 10 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. M-Sport WRT – 162 points
2. Hyundai Motorsport – 140 points
3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – 102 points
4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 73 points
Warren Nel, WRC editor