Rally Argentina Review 2019- Thierry Neuville Takes Victory!

Thierry Neuville took a remarkable victory in Argentina with Andreas Mikkelsen and Seb Ogier completing the podium. Here’s the story of how it happened. In the days before the event, there had been a lot of rain and thunderstorms before and this would make things very interesting!

 

After the short SS 1 – Super Especial Villa Carlos Paz (1,90 km) on Thursday night the top ten was covered by just three and a half seconds, with Ott holding the lead and Teemu Suninen in tenth place.

 

Friday

With seven stages due to run, including a double run of SS 3 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (29,85 km), the longest stage of the day, plus very different conditions since the reece, getting through the first full day would be a big challenge.

 

The start list looked like this, with the cars entering in championship order – Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Evans, Meeke, Lappi, Sordo, Latvala, Suninen, Mikkelsen, Greensmith, Ostberg.

 

First up then was SS 2 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 1 (16,65 km), and it was Kris who set a great pace, winning and closing on his teammate for the lead. The big loser was Ogier, who could only manage eighth fastest and fell down to seventh overall. However, Thierry was doing really badly, now 14 seconds from early leader Ott.

 

Sadly SS 3 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (29,85 km) was cancelled for safety reasons, so it was a long wait for the next one, SS 4 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 1 (23,44 km). It was a drama filled stage, with Thierry hitting back and winning the stage from Meeke and Ogier and Ott, who lost 10 seconds and fell to second overall. However, the worst happened to Esapekka Lappi, who had been in sixth, picked up a puncture and fell down to ninth! Elfyn was also on the move, going fifth fastest and climbing from eighth to sixth overall.

 

The short SS 5 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 1 (6,04 km) was won by Andreas, with Seb and Thierry setting identical times for equal second fastest. The Norwegians pace saw him move up into sixth overall. Thierry was now Kris’ closest challenger, just five seconds separating them at the top of the leaderboard.

 

After service, SS 6 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 2 (16,65 km) saw more changes. Ott won the stage from Dani Sordo, with Andreas third. Kris could only manage sixth in the stage and now his lead was just seven tenths of a second! Thierry had now dropped a place, but was still in podium contention.

 

SS 7 – Amboy – Yacanto 2 (29,85 km) next up and with conditions better than expected, Ott moved into the lead after Kris dropped 20 seconds, falling to fourth overall, now behind Thierry and Ogier.

 

The final stage of the first day then, SS 8 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 2 (23,44 km) and there was drama once more for Lappi who crashed after sustaining another puncture. It was a scary crash, as there were some spectators far too close to the road. The outcome could have been so different. Thierry won the stage and with Ott only sixth fastest the Belgian took the lead, whilst Ogier was now second, ahead of Ott, who was now third. Further back, Elfyn moved up to sixth overall after setting the third fastest time in the stage.

Well, the first day had produced lots of drama, and it’s fair to say that it was a surprise to see Belgian pairing Thierry and Nicolas in the lead. The standings looked like this.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:11:13.9
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +11.9
  3. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +13.4
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 28.1
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 29.4
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 38.2
  7. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +41.1
  8. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:13.6
  9. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:59.2
  10. Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +6:11.1

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers at the end of day one.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We didn’t really expect to be leading this rally at the end of the first day, especially considering our starting position as first on the road. It’s a pleasant surprise but it has been a complicated day with tricky conditions. We know things will be equally challenging as the weekend continues. Even with the wet weather, there were times when it was better to be earlier on the road and other stages when it was not. The car has performed well today and we are in the fight, so we will do what we can to defend our lead on Saturday.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“We had a good morning loop and were able to set some encouraging times. The only issue was a puncture in SS4. Anders noticed we had a front-left issue after 5km into the stage so we took it carefully after that so we didn’t lose the tyre off the rim. We were lucky, and were able to remain in the fight. I was happy not to lose more time to be honest. It’s been a bit of an up and down day, and by the end of the afternoon loop I really felt that our starting position was hurting us. Saturday we will be more in the middle of the pack, so we will hopefully fare better.”

Dani Sordo (7th)

“The day had been going quite OK and we were having more fun on the stages than I thought we would be able to in these conditions. Some of the stages were so difficult to read; you didn’t really know what speed was possible. We tried to push a bit harder in the afternoon and the times were good until the final stage. We went into a ditch in a slow corner and had to reverse out, so we lost some time there. Not the greatest way to end but tomorrow’s another day.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“The opening leg at Rally Argentina is always very complicated and rough. I’m pleased to finish the day in this position. It was all the more difficult because we did recce on these stages before the rain fell. We fought as hard as possible, and although the car isn’t running perfectly as yet, we’re still in contention for victory and it’s still open at the front. The second leg looks like it will be very difficult again, probably with fog early on, as is often the case on these stages.”

Seb and Julien in flight! Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“It has been a tough day with conditions that were very hard for the cars. With the engineers we were able to make some changes in service, and that improved things for the afternoon so that I could have a bit more confidence. I was quite enjoying it and some good stage times were coming. We had the issue with the driveshaft on the last stage, but we could make it back to service to get it fixed tonight. I believe we should have a good car for tomorrow’s stages, and we’ll push hard. There’s a long way to go so everything is still to play for.”

 

Kris Meeke (4th)

“It has been a challenging day for everyone in these conditions. I really enjoyed it this morning. It wasn’t about ultimate pace it was a case of reading the road and trying to work out where it would be really slippery. For most of the stage it would be fine with good grip, and then there were some really deep patches of mud that you had to try and anticipate before you hit them. The afternoon was tough. We had a couple of issues with the car that slowed us a little bit, but I simply didn’t have the pace anyway. Hopefully tomorrow will be better and we can still challenge for the podium.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)

“This morning was quite good, it was consistent and we were up there, not far from the leaders. This afternoon was much tougher. It started well but I was too fast in one corner in the ruts and pushed a tyre off the rim, so we had to finish the stage with a flat tyre. That made me a bit cautious on the next stage, and then on the final stage of the loop I had a spin and lost some more time there. We still have two days left and a lot can happen, especially in these conditions, so we will stay positive.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“Obviously it’s not where we wanted to be at the end of the day, but we’re not a million miles away and there is still a long way to go. I felt that we were driving quite well at points, but I didn’t always have the feeling to push that little bit more – just struggling with the balance here and there. The midfield battle is pretty close, so we have to keep fighting for the best possible position tomorrow.”

Teemu Suninen (9th)

“Today has been quite difficult. The conditions have changed a lot from the recce with a lot more mud and a lot of surprising places. This made it difficult to get into a good rhythm as I was always expecting some tricky conditions. But then on the second loop when I had a bit more knowledge, I was able to improve my times – except on the last stage where the engine took in some water and we lost some time.”

 

Saturday

With 146.52km of competitive stages, Saturday would be the longest day of this event. The start list looked like this- Suninen, Latvala, Sordo, Evans, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Tänak, Ogier, Neuville. The rally leader was in a good position to move further ahead of his competitors, but this event was certainly not decided.

 

SS 9 – Tanti – Mataderos 1 (13,92 km) first up, and Thierry won the stage from Ott, and with Ogier only fifth fastest as well, the Frenchman dropped to third. Elfyn also started well, going fourth quickest and closing on Andreas in their battle for fourth overall.

 

SS 10 – Mataderos – Cuchilla Nevada 1 (22,67 km), saw the battle between the Hyundai and Toyota drivers continue with Ott winning the stage, but Thierry keeping the timeloss down to just two and a half seconds. There was drama though for Elfyn and Scott. Approaching a quick right-hander, the Welshman lost the rear of the Fiesta, and all was well until the front hit a huge boulder, which had the effect of spinning the car around, which then caused the tyres to dig in and the car to roll off the road, coming to rest back on it wheels. They were out, bringing an end to a good start.

SS 11 – Cuchilla Nevada – Characato 1 (33,65 km) was won by Ott, and he took six seconds out of Thierry as well, thus reducing the gap to just five seconds between them. However, Ogier lost a huge amount of time- over half a minute after his powersteering failed- falling behind Kris as well into fourth place. Any hopes for victory had now almost evaporated as he was 46 seconds from the leader.

 

SS 12 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 2 (6,04 km) was won by Andreas from Dani and Jari-Matti, whilst Kris fell from third to fourth and Ogier lost more time due to his powersteering problem, falling to sixth overall, over a full minute from the lead.

 

After service, SS 13 – Tanti – Mataderos 2 (13,92 km) Ogier with his problem fixed flew through the stage, setting the fastest time. Andreas continued his good form, with the second quickest time, keeping himself ahead of Kris.

 

SS 14 – Mataderos – Cuchilla Nevada 2 (22,67 km) saw drama for two drivers. Ogier continued his scorching pace by winning this stage and passing Dani Sordo. This would have been good enough for fifth overall, but the Yaris piloted by Ott suffered a failure, making him retire for the day.

 

SS 15 – Cuchilla Nevada – Characato 2 (33,65 km), the final stage of the day saw Andreas set the fastest time, with Thierry and Seb second and third. The Norwegian had had one of his best days in his car. There would be drama away from the stages though. Seb talked about the road book, and about their being changes to the results later.

 

This statement from Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal sheds some light on it –

“”It wasn’t an easy day for Sébastien and Julien. They lost a lot of time this morning when the power steering broke, after they were confused by the gate left open, which should have been closed. We are therefore expecting the rally organisers to take the appropriate decisions for those crews that didn’t follow the route indicated in the roadbook.”

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2 

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:37.23.6
  2. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 45.7
  3. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:03.2
  4. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:06.0
  5. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:12.0
  6. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:28.3
  7. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:48.4
  8. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +12:04.5

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We are in a very strong position but we still can’t take anything for granted. It has been an excellent day. We have enjoyed a good feeling in the car on all stages. We knew it would be tough to defend but we were able to maintain our lead and then saw that increase when Ott unfortunately retired. Knowing we had a margin, we were able to take it easier on the last stage, avoiding rocks and punctures. Even then the confidence we had in the car allowed us to set a competitive time. We have three iconic stages tomorrow, but the aim is clear: we have to keep it clean.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (2nd)

“I am incredibly happy with how we have ended today’s stages. I wasn’t overly pleased with the morning loop, and I struggled in the opening two stages. I felt a lack of grip from the rear of the car and it was hard to push without sliding. However, we made some suspension changes at lunchtime service that improved my feeling and we could generate some excellent performance. We drove cleanly and precisely, finishing the day with a fantastic stage win. Bring on Sunday – and a push for the podium!”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“The battle for the podium is very close and it is pleasing to see all three of our cars featuring strongly on the classification. I lost some time on the first stage but we were able to bring ourselves back into contention. I enjoyed the stages a lot. There was a bit of cleaning in the morning but we were still able to make up ground. We find ourselves in a strong situation now with Thierry and Andreas 1-2, and what promises to be a fun and interesting fight for third place on Sunday.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Kris Meeke (3rd)

“I was enjoying the driving this morning: the rhythm was good and the speed was quite OK, we were taking some seconds from Ogier in the fight for the podium. On SS11 I had a brake problem after a watersplash, which caused me to slide wide in a later corner and I touched the rear which punctured two tyres, so we had to do the super special with one flat. This afternoon, our setup wasn’t perfect, with the stages having dried out quite a bit. Ogier took a little bit of time out of us, but we’re still in the battle and tomorrow is going to be an intense fight.”

Kris Meeke and Seb Marshall, Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala (6th)

“I was satisfied with how the morning went. I hadn’t done this group of stages for two years and some sections were completely new, but I enjoyed them. I knew I could improve doing them for the second time, so I was really confident going into the afternoon. The first two stages went well. On the last one, the engine took on some water in a watersplash, but I managed to get it restarted. Then I did a mistake myself, so in all we lost five or six seconds in our fight for fifth place, but I want to keep fighting tomorrow and let’s see what we can do.”

 

Ott Tänak (Retired/Rally2)

“We had a good start this morning. The roads today were very different to what we had yesterday: really smooth and fast in places. There were still a few slippery places, so the grip was inconsistent. We were looking forward to having a big push in the afternoon, but we knew in the first stage that we had a problem, that the battery voltage was going down, and in the second stage we had to retire. Of course, it’s disappointing. With the performance we have I believe we are capable of winning any rally, but we still have some work to do. Tomorrow we’ll do what we can, and we’ll keep pushing: it’s a long season.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“We had an up and down day. After dropping a lot of time this morning, I had very little to lose this afternoon, so I pushed hard with the C3 WRC. There was also a bit more grip and that appeared to help us. I’m expecting to move up a position or two this evening, after the rally organisers look at what happened at the gate this morning. Tomorrow, the goal will be to keep out of trouble on these rough roads and score as many points as possible.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“Today was a difficult day for us. We were first on the road where the conditions were a bit more slippery and we couldn’t match the times of the fastest drivers. Then in the afternoon the intercom was cutting and I couldn’t hear all of the notes from Marko. He had to give me the instructions by hand which took away some of the confidence.”

Elfyn Evans (DNF)

“I’ve used these notes for quite a few years and not had a problem before, but when I arrived at the corner, I felt I was carrying just a little bit too much speed. I threw it in, and we made the corner to be fair, but I couldn’t recover the oversteer. I planted the throttle but couldn’t get the car straight and we hit a fairly massive boulder that was lining the road.”

Sunday

Well, just three stages left, and the start list looked like this – Tänak, Suninen, Latvala, Sordo, Ogier, Meeke, Mikkelsen, Neuville. Also, the classification had changed, with Ogier now in third, ahead of Dani and Kris who had been given a time penalty.

 

Kris hit back with the best answer to this situation, winning SS 16 – Copina – El Condor (16,43 km) and moving into fourth place, just half a second from Seb who was struggling for traction. Thierry remained in the lead, now 36 seconds ahead of Andreas.

 

SS 17 – Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare (20,30 km) was won by Thierry, but the big news was that Kris had passed Seb on the overall leaderboard and was now third. Also, on the move was Jari-Matti who passed Dani Sordo.

 

The final stage then, SS 18 – Power Stage El Condor (16,43 km) and Ogier flew through and won the stage, taking all five power stage points. His pace, plus a problem for Kris saw the Frenchman regain third overall. In the Toyota, Kris got a warning that his tyre pressures were low. It was enough to lose the third place that he had so convincingly gained. Still, it marked a great result, the best yet this year.

What a victory though for Thierry, Nicolas and Hyundai? Retained the championship lead in both the drivers, co-drivers and manufacturer tables. Impressive stuff.

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
25-28 April 2019
Hyundai Motorsport President Scott Noh
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Anders Jaeger, Andreas Mikkelsen
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:20:54.6
  2. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +48.4
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:04.8
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:06.2
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:21.1
  6. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:26.7
  7. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:57.3
  8. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +14:24.8
  9. Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +14:28.5

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“This is a really great feeling! The car has been absolutely perfect all weekend and I have felt comfortable, quick and in control throughout the event. We have taken some strong stage wins and shown the performance of our i20 Coupe WRC in some very challenging conditions. It has been an amazing team result, not only at the rally, but also everyone working tirelessly in Germany. I am so thankful to everyone for their hard work, dedication and professionalism. We have scored some important points for the championship and I am really proud of what we have achieved this weekend.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (2nd)

“It’s been a really tough really so I am overjoyed with this result. We have had to wait a long time for this, and we’ve certainly battled through some frustrating times. It might be second place but it really feels like a victory to me. We have been working so hard and I am incredibly thankful to the team for their support. We found great pace from the car this weekend and finally been able to show what we – and the car – are capable of. To finish 1-2 gives us such important points for the championship, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Dani Sordo (6th)

“I am really happy for the team, and pleased that our manufacturers’ position has been strengthened. I really wanted to push for third place today but I just didn’t have the pace that was needed. I have done my best all weekend but ultimately the 1-2 result for Thierry and Andreas gives the team maximum points, which is the most important thing. There are some things I can learn from this weekend personally, and I will aim to return stronger next time.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It’s a pretty good result in terms of points, but we can’t be pleased with our out-and-out performance level. There are some conditions, like those we saw in Mexico or here on the second runs, where we are fairly competitive. But we have to improve when there is less grip or when the road is more technical. I’m pleased to see our persistence rewarded, because once again this weekend we pushed as hard as possible right to the end.”

Esapekka Lappi (DNF)

“Despite not knowing the roads here particularly well, I was obviously hoping for a better outcome from this round. But after we had picked up a puncture, I was caught out when the tyre suddenly came loose. This caused the car to understeer, we hit a bank at the side of the road and rolled the car. Obviously, I’m sorry for the team, but after a few days’ rest with my family, Janne and I will back raring to go and have the best Rally Chile possible, where we’ll all be on an equal footing in terms of experience.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (4th)

“The time penalty last night dropped us back to fifth, but everything was still there to fight for. The car was working really well this morning and I enjoyed it. The rhythm was good and we continued that into the Power Stage, but about six kilometres from the end, I got a warning light to say the tyre pressures were going down. I have no idea where it happened. I tried my best, and sometimes it’s like this. It’s a bit frustrating, because in the last three rallies we could have had a top result. I’m really enjoying driving this car, and I enjoyed today even though it didn’t quite work out. I have to keep doing what I’m doing, I know it’s going to come right.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“Honestly, I’m feeling happy at the end of the rally. The season has been difficult for me so far, and we had a bad start here on Friday. But step-by-step we started to come back on Saturday, and today I felt I was back on the level where I was at the end of last year. I’m really happy about that. I wanted to attack a lot on the Mina Clavero stage: it’s a stage where you can make big differences if you’re confident. This strategy worked out, which gave me an extra boost for the Power Stage, where we had a really good fight for the fastest time. Now I’m looking forward to Chile and the fast and flowing stages we’re expecting there.”

Ott Tänak (8th)

“It was pretty demanding for us today. We were early on the road so we really struggled to set any good times. The positive was that we just managed to catch and take eighth place. It’s been a very frustrating weekend with the issues we had. We had good performance but no big result, so there is a lot to improve. We will keep doing our best, so let’s see in Chile how we can fight back.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“This has been a difficult rally for me and I’m sorry for the team that we didn’t perform as well as we wanted. We know that we have a good car and we want to be pushing for better results. But at least we finished the rally and got some good experience for the future. Now, I’m looking forward to Chile and to seeing what we can do there.”

Teemu and Marko, Photo credit M-Sport

M-Sport team principle, Richard Millener had this to say as well;

“Teemu has done a solid job this weekend. It’s only his second time here and he had to contend with some really challenging conditions. Anticipating those conditions when the rally is so different to the recce requires a certain level of experience, and he’s gained some good knowledge for the future whilst keeping our points scoring record intact.

“But overall it’s been a pretty frustrating rally for the team as we had the potential to secure another really strong result this weekend. But that’s the way it goes sometimes, and we’re already focused on the next event in Chile.

“The technicians started the re-prep on Elfyn’s car yesterday afternoon and it’s already starting to look like a proper rally car again! It’s been stripped and washed, the chassis has been repaired, and most of the rear has already been rebuilt.

“We’ll continue the re-prep on both cars over the next two and a half days, and then the technicians are going to have a couple of days holiday before flying to Chile on Saturday. We’ve actually got some mountain biking planned on El Condor which should be good fun!”

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Thierry Neuville – 110 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 100 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 82 points
  4. Kris Meeke – 54 points
  5. Elfyn Evans – 43 points
  6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 30 points
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 28 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 26 points
  9. Dani Sordo – 26 points
  10. Sébastien Loeb – 22 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 157 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 120 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 117 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 78 points

 

Summary

Well, what a great rally! Those Thierry Neuville fans out there will be very happy indeed! He has a small lead in the championship over Seb, with Ott right there too. Kris moved up another position into fourth, after Elfyn Evans’ non finish. Andreas Mikkelsen drove well, scoring his first podium since last year’s Rally Sweden, and he was pretty pleased with that. Dani also went well, helping the team retain a good lead over Toyota in their battle for the manufacturer crown.

Next up is the first ever Rally Chile, held from the 10th to 12th of May.

Rally Argentina 2019 Preview- Back to gravel!

This event marks the start of five straight events on gravel before a return to tarmac in Germany in August. Road position will be very important for those challenging for the championship as we head through these events. Thierry Neuville leads the championship giving him the situation where he is opening the road. Last year when he was in that position, he was not troubling the top positions, meaning that it’ll be interesting how he deals with this. Can the Hyundai teammates get themselves into good positions to take points away from his rivals in the championship?

 

Seb Ogier and Citroen have to be considered as potential winners, but incredibly the Champion has never won this rally, but has stood on the podium four times. Perhaps this will be the year that sees him and Julien take their first win.

Can Sébastien Ogier – Julien Ingrassia take their first victory in Rally Argentina this weekend? Photo credit Citroën Total WRT.

Two years ago, Elfyn Evans almost won this event, finishing just seven tenths from Thierry Neuville. This year, he comes to this event, having driven incredibly fast and consistently in Tour de Corse, with terrible heartbreak in the end for the Welshman, missing out on his second victory.

 

Now twelve months ago, Ott Tanak took his first victory for Toyota and will be hoping for a repeat, but perhaps we’ll see Kris Meeke win instead. After all, he did take his first victory in this event in 2015, and what of Jari-Matti, who has also done very well, winning in 2014 for Volkswagen during their first season. One driver missing from the event is 2016 winner Hayden Paddon, and what a shame he is not competing.

 

Well, let’s have a look at the stages that make this year’s event. There is a total of 347,50km’s competitive tests making up this year’s event, with minor changes to the event and the penultimate stage, SS17 being run in the same direction as 2017. The start times for the stages are three hours behind GMT.

 

THURSDAY 25 APRIL

10.00am: Shakedown (4,25 km)

6.30pm: Start (Service park – Villa Carlos Paz)

7.08pm: SS 1 – Super Especial Villa Carlos Paz (1,90 km)

7.33pm: Parc ferme

 

FRIDAY 26 APRIL

6.25amp: Start & service A (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 mins)

8.08am: SS 2 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 1 (16,65 km)

8.55am: SS 3 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (29,85 km)

10.08am: SS 4 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 1 (23,44 km)

12.03pm: SS 5 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 1 (6,04 km)

12.43pm: Service B (Villa Carlos Paz – 40 mins)

2.51pm: SS 6 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 2 (16,65 km)

3.38pm: SS 7 – Amboy – Yacanto 2 (29,85 km)

4.51pm: SS 8 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 2 (23,44 km)

6.41pm: Flexi service C (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 27 APRIL

6.57am: Start & service D (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 mins)

7.47am: SS 9 – Tanti – Mataderos 1 (13,92 km)

8.38am: SS 10 – Mataderos – Cuchilla Nevada 1 (22,67 km)

9.25am: SS 11 – Cuchilla Nevada – Characato 1 (33,65 km)

11.26am: SS 12 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 2 (6,04 km)

12.02pm: Service E (Villa Carlos Paz – 40 mins)

1.17pm: SS 13 – Tanti – Mataderos 2 (13,92 km)

2.08pm: SS 14 – Mataderos – Cuchilla Nevada 2 (22,67 km)

2.55pm: SS 15 – Cuchilla Nevada – Characato 2 (33,65 km)

4.55pm: Flexi service F (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 28 APRIL

7.45am: Service G (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 mins)

9.08am: SS 16 – Copina – El Condor (16,43 km)

10.31am: SS 17 – Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare (20,30 km)

12.18pm: SS 18 – Power Stage El Condor (16,43 km)

2.01pm: Service H (Villa Carlos Paz – 10 mins)

2.31pm: Finish

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Argentina is a fantastic event with some tough stages and a great atmosphere. As one of the roughest rallies of the season, it requires a careful approach. On the one hand, we need to look after the car but on the other there are some sections where you can really attack. It’s a balancing act; we have to find a good rhythm but also be ready to push more or less when necessary. We’d like to add more victories after the success in Corsica but we know it will be a demanding event, especially starting first on the road.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
26-29 April 2018
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Argentina is without doubt one of my favourite gravel rallies. There are a huge number of spectators and passionate fans, which creates an incredible atmosphere. The stages are in really nice condition, a little bit sandy compared to other gravel events that increases the grip level. As a result, we can set the car sideways into the corners and then push to the maximum. There are also the classic Argentina stages El Condor and Mina Clavero, which offer the ultimate test of man and machine.”

Dani Sordo

“I always look forward to Rally Argentina, a special event with some truly amazing supporters. Despite being one of the roughest events on the calendar, there are some very nice stages – including El Condor and Mina Clavero – that are a real privilege to drive. We showed our pace on gravel in Mexico, fighting at the front on the opening day. We want to repeat that level of performance in Argentina and do all we can to get a good result for ourselves and the team.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Although I have never won in Argentina, it’s a rally that I like and I have often been quick here in the past. So, I come into this round with the same high hopes as usual. I would even go as far as to say I feel slightly more motivated by the prospect of winning this rally for the first time and with Citroën. It’s also true that being second in the running order gives me a bit more of a chance than in previous years. The

type of roads used varies a lot, but I would say that what really stands out is how rough the gravel can be in places. You really do have to think about looking after your car sometimes, whilst continuing to drive quickly.”

Esapekka Lappi

“With only one previous appearance at this rally, which doesn’t change much from one year to the next, in principle, I start with a bit of a disadvantage compared to many of my rivals. Having said that, I’ll have a good place in the running order and I’m very determined to build on my promising outing on gravel in the C3 WRC in Mexico and bring home the best possible result from Argentina. I remember that the stages here are fairly nice, but you have to watch out for the countless embedded rocks, because they pose a real risk in terms of punctures.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

“I’m feeling good about Rally Argentina. It’s the event where we managed to take our first win for Toyota last year, and we are expecting nothing less this year. I believe that we should be able to perform well again there. The fast roads and the kind of surface that we have in Argentina should really suit our car quite well. It’s a really tough event, as the stages can turn very rough in places, so there are points where you need to take some extra care. As for Chile, I don’t really know what to expect, as I haven’t been there before. There are a few things that we’ve been able to find out in advance, but we’ll only really discover how the stages are when we get there and see them for ourselves in the recce.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 05, Rally Argentina / April 26-19, 2018// Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Rally Argentina is one of the greatest events we have in the WRC. There is a lot of passion and a lot of spectators: some of them camping in the mountains, waiting to see the rally cars come by. The rally itself has some very nice, beautiful stages. The main challenge is that they can get quite rough for the second pass. On the other hand, I have been looking at how the roads are in Chile, and that won’t be a rough event: there are no rocks and the sides of the road are very clean. Some places actually remind me of how the forest stages in Britain are when they’re dry. My motivation is now very high, and I’m looking forward to getting started on these two events and being in the fight.”

 

Kris Meeke

“Argentina has always been a rally that I’ve enjoyed and I have some good memories from there, particularly my first ever WRC win in 2015. I’ll be hoping to try and have a clean rally. Mexico and Corsica could have been a lot better for me, so I’m definitely looking to have a top result. I had three days of testing on gravel in Portugal last week and I think we’re in good shape for Rally Argentina. We’ve got five gravel events in a row coming up and they’re all rallies I go well on, aside from Chile which is new for everyone. As drivers we won’t know exactly what we’re facing until we get to Chile and do the recce, but events in South America are always really well-supported with a great atmosphere, and I’m sure this one will be no different.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“I’ve always enjoyed Rally Argentina and I’m looking forward to heading back there again this year. The Argentine fans are amazing and make it a really special place for rallying – and for me. It’s where I got my first podium back in 2015, and where I came pretty close to victory in 2017.

“We’ve had a pretty good start to the season and we want to see that continue that next week. We’ve had the speed; we’ve made some good steps forward with the car and we’ve secured two back-to-back podiums.

“The goal will be to continue that with another podium in Argentina. The competition is exceptionally strong at the moment and it’s fair to say that we struggled here last year. But I’m confident in the work we’ve been doing and if everything goes to plan, I see no reason why we can’t challenge for another top result.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Argentina (ARG) – WRC 26/04/2017 to 30/04/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Teemu Suninen

“I’m really looking forward to next week and it will be interesting to see where we are. The start of the season has shown that the team have clearly taken another step forward with the car. There are still some question marks, but based on the previous events I feel that we can be competitive in Argentina.

“I competed here for the first-time last year and really enjoyed it. It’s not a particularly rough rally, but it is fast and requires a lot of strength. On a long straight you can feel the holes in the road as they bounce the car in the air! You also need a lot of traction and the car needs to handle well in the ruts – which is one of the things we focused on at our test last week.

“Personally, I don’t feel the same pressure that I had before Corsica but I still need to finish this rally with a good result. The good thing is that we can rely on our old pace notes from last year as there aren’t many changes to the route.”

 

I held a Twitter poll from my account (@Warren_S_Nel) asking to predict the winner and got 118 votes.

Sébastien Ogier got the highest percentage score of the votes, with Thierry deemed least likely to take victory.

Sebastien Ogier33%
Elfyn Evans29%
Ott Tanak26%
Thierry Neuville12%

 

Well, we are set for a fascinating battle, and you’ll be able to follow all the action on WRC+ in the app, plus highlights on 5Spike Monday evening the 29th of April at 7pm for an hour.

Rally Argentina Review – Ott Tanak takes it!

Young Estonian Ott took his third WRC victory and first for Toyota on his fifth outing for the Finnish based Toyota squad! Here’s the story of how they did it. In the championship fight, Thierry closed the gap on his rival Seb in their fight for the title and Ott Tanak has brought himself into this fight with his brilliant drive to victory.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 05, Rally Argentina / April 26-19, 2018// Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

After the short stage on Thursday evening, Thierry Neuville held a lead over Ott with Seb in third.

Friday would see the crews tackle seven stages, totaling 154.2km. This was the start list – Ogier, Neuville, Tänak, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Lappi, Latvala, Sordo, Breen, Evans, Suninen, Al Qassimi.

Despite being the first car into the stage, Seb won the stage and was eight seconds faster than Thierry who was fourth fastest. Ott was not fast in this one, over twenty seconds slower than the leader and tenth.

It all turned around on the next stage. Ott took the stage and Seb dropped 17.8 seconds. Andreas Mikkelsen moved into the lead with Ott now just nine and a half seconds off the lead. Sadly, this stage saw the exit of Jari-Matti.

Stage four saw Ott close the gap to Andreas to just one second, whilst Kris got past Seb into third overall. Thierry was also moving up on place to fifth overall.

The lead changed again in stage five in the short 6km super special with Ott moving ahead of Andreas. Thierry also dropped a place to Dani.

After the service break, the second run of Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique saw Ott take another stage victory and increase his lead after Andreas drop right down to eight overall. Kris was now the closest to the young Estonian.

Stage seven saw the lead increase again with Ott now almost 17 seconds ahead of Kris. Dani was second fastest in the stage and this moved him ahead of Seb and Thierry into third overall.

The final stage of the day was won again by Ott with Thierry just a little over one second slower than him in second, meaning that he’d moved ahead also of Dani and into third overall. Kris remained the closest driver to Ott, ending the day 22 seconds away, and wary of the foggy stages that sometimes show up during the morning of day two.

Ott had driven a superbly all day, whilst Kris had done a clever drive. He’d picked up a puncture in the last stage of the day though, leading to the little time loss.

Classification after Day One

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC 1:30:38.6
2 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +22.7
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +28.6
4 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +29.5
5 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +36.4
6 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +41.2
7 A. Mikkelsen A. Jæger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +58.5
8 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +1:07.9
9 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +1:10.3
10 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +1:33.7

Let’s hear then from the drivers-

 

Ott Tanak

“I am definitely happy with today. We have been pushing really hard and I couldn’t have done that if it wasn’t for the perfect feeling that I have with the car. It has been performing really well and it’s giving me confidence. It’s good that we have been able to make some improvements and they seem to be paying off, although I think there is still more to come. It’s a shame that we lost some time on the first stage this morning: I’m not sure how it happened but we had a spin in a very narrow place and it took a long time to get back in the right direction. Then we started to push hard to get the time back, and this afternoon we had three perfect stages. I feel quite confident about our position: Tomorrow the stages are even faster and we know that fast roads suit this car really well, and I was able to do some really good times on these stages last year, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Kris Meeke

“Although our day got off to a difficult start, with some visibility issues on the first stage and some problems finding the right pace on the next one, we worked things out after that. This was a daunting leg so we’re pleased to have been both smart and consistent. I felt confident behind the wheel, which just goes to show that the changes made to the car are going the right way and that we have to keep it up. If there is fog tomorrow, then that blows the whole thing wide open again because the gaps will end up being minutes rather than seconds. So it’ll be up to us to perform!”

Thierry Neuville

“I am quite pleased with the day overall. We have had a good feeling inside the car and felt that we could really push for competitive stage times despite starting second on the road. At the same time, we have had to avoid trouble and effectively save the car, as the stages were pretty rough in places. The strategy has really been to take it easy and keep in touch with the leaders. I am sure we have more pace in us for tomorrow, which will be a very different challenge.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport 

Dani Sordo (4th)

“It has been a positive start to the rally for us, and I am thoroughly enjoying driving in front of these crowds. The stages themselves, as we know from the past, are very rough and it is very easy to have some problems. To be fighting for the podium is where we would hope to be at the end of the first day – and it is very close. I have to thank the team for the job they have done to prepare our car. I have hit a few big rocks this afternoon, and the car has done its job perfectly, very solid and competitive. Let’s see if we can keep up the fight tomorrow!”

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)

“We had a great morning and led the rally for a few stages, which was very promising. Ott has been incredibly fast today so we knew we had to push hard, which is easier said than done on such rough stages. It was going well until the start of the afternoon loop when the tyre came loose from the rim and lost us a lot of time. We then had to be extra careful because we knew one more issue might be game over, so we focused on getting the car home. We’ll be ready for another push on Saturday.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT 

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“It was an excellent day for us and I couldn’t do much more in terms of driving. We didn’t make any mistakes and I really tried to push as much as I could. Ott [Tänak] is flying and did a great job, but other than that we’re still in the fight for second place – despite opening the road.”

Sébastien Ogier, Rally Argentina 2018 – Photo Credit, M-Sport Ford

Elfyn Evans (9th)

“For sure it has been a difficult day for us. On the whole I felt that the driving wasn’t particularly bad, but the times just haven’t been there. We need to understand why that is and do better tomorrow.”

Teemu Suninen (10th)

“It hasn’t been the easiest day in the car, but we have learnt a lot. We were able to improve the driving a bit today, but we need to improve more to be faster and challenge for the podium. The main things we need to look at are the braking style and corner entries. Hopefully if we can improve one, it will be like a domino effect and the other will improve too. So, let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“This morning started surprisingly well on the first two stages. On the third one we lost a lot of time, as it was a bit more slippery and I didn’t want to make any mistakes. This afternoon it was a lot rougher on the second pass, and to have three punctures today is obviously not good. I’m not really sure why it kept happening, and to be honest I think it was just bad luck: the tyres themselves were fine but they kept coming off the rim. Tomorrow the weather might be different and this could be an opportunity for me to get some time back.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (DNF)

“I had a perfect feeling with the car this morning. The Yaris WRC is going so well here, and it was so easy to drive. I was really enjoying it. The second stage of the day was going really well and actually getting better and better as it went on. Then we came to a long right-hand corner and at the exit of the corner I hit a rock which I didn’t see hidden in the shadows. Immediately the front-right suspension was broken and one of the oil pipes was damaged, so I had to stop. On this rally there are so many rocks: sometimes you are lucky with them and sometimes you are unlucky, and I think I was unlucky. It is very frustrating because we were in such a good rhythm. My co-driver Miikka was really frustrated too, because he knew that I was not attacking too hard. I just need to put this behind me, and hope that I can get that good feeling again on the next rally. One thing is for sure: the car is really fast.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen (6th)

“It was a pretty good leg for us, given our lack of knowledge of the stages. I think I made a real breakthrough in the afternoon, in trying to adapt my driving style to the handling of the C3 WRC. My time on the final stage shows this and that augurs well for the rest of the rally.”

Kris Meeke, Rally Argentina – Photo Credit Citroen Racing

Khalid Al Qassimi (15th)

“With the fog we experienced in recce, my pace notes weren’t perfect but we made it to the end of this leg whilst making steady progress. Although the first loop was difficult, I felt more confident on the afternoon loop thanks to the adjustments to my C3 WRC’ set-up by the technical team.”

 

Day Two – Saturday!

The crews had seven stages and 146.88km of action! The top cars would run in opposite order – Al Qassimi, Suninen, Evans, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Breen, Ogier, Sordo, Neuville, Meeke, Tänak.

 

Ott started the day where he left off, winning from Kris and extending his lead over the Citroen driver. Seb was doing his best to stay with the leaders but lost more time.

Stage ten saw the crews face the fog and Al Qassimi really struggled with this, using the brakes a lot just to be sure he’d complete the stage. Thierry and Dani were the closest challengers to Ott who won the stage, but Kris fell back a little and now the gap between them was over 30 seconds.  Thierry was now closer to Kris as a result.

Stage eleven saw more fog and a longer stage at 40km’s! Craig rolled out after losing control over a jump and his teammate Kris fell behind Thierry. We saw a welcome return to the front of Elfyn Evans who set the third fastest time and moved up one place to seventh. Ott’s lead was now a pretty comfortable 43 seconds.

The short 6km super special saw Thierry take a stage victory, his measured approach paying dividends, now ten seconds ahead of Kris. Dani was also driving well, his gap over Seb growing and hoping to take points away from Seb to benefit Hyundai’s best hope for the drivers’ championship (Thierry).

Ott continued to set the pace at the front in the first afternoon stage, number thirteen, and continued to open the gap over Thierry and Kris and was looking pretty comfortable.

The fog had now gone from the next stage, but Kris reported that it was very low grip after wearing his tyres more in the previous stage. He was now almost a minute behind the leader. The Hyundai twins of Thierry and Dani set exactly the same time, just 2.1 seconds slower than Ott.

The second running of the 40km stage saw disaster for Kris who ran over a stone and got a puncture immediately. He and Paul changed the tyre as fast as they could, but still lost two and a half minutes meaning that they dropped to eighth overall. The top three was now Ott followed by Thierry and Dani.

The Spaniard won the stage, ending Ott’s run of fastest times today. Esapekka also moved ahead of Elfyn into sixth after setting the second fastest time.

After all the drama, the top ten at the end of Saturday looked like this-

Classification after Day Two

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC 2:58:33.9
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +46.5
3 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:08.2
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +1:59.0
5 A. Mikkelsen A. Jæger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:13.8
6 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +2:42.9
7 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +2:49.1
8 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +3:20.4
9 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +4:17.6

Here’s the views then, starting with the top three.

Ott Tänak

“Everything has been working really well. I have a very good feeling with the car, and especially so on today’s roads, which were fast and flowing and suit our car very well. I was not pushing as hard as yesterday, when I was really on the limit. Today there was maybe a bit more control, but still the times were clearly quite good. This morning we had some really tricky conditions with really thick fog, but we managed it well and this afternoon was very enjoyable. I need to show respect for tomorrow’s stages, because El Condor and Mina Clavero are very tough pieces of road and very different compared to today, but I am feeling confident.”

 

Thierry Neuville

“I am pleased to have moved up into second place in the overall classification. We have had to stay really focused today. We lost a bit of time early on as we tackled the foggy morning stages but pushed as hard as we could. In the afternoon, with soft tyres, we had to take things carefully to avoid risking a puncture. We could have done a bit more but it wasn’t necessary. Ott has a commanding lead of this rally so our target tomorrow is to secure second place and maximise points for both championships.”

Dani Sordo

“The opening loop was really difficult in the fog, and it was impossible not to lose some time getting through in those conditions. Things improved at the end of the long stage but it offered a tough start to the day.  The fight for the podium places has been quite open. The final stage went really well – although I was a bit scared of the tyres because we were on the limit. We couldn’t afford a single mistake so we drove clean and just enjoyed it. In the end, the time was good and we moved back up to third. We will do all we can to keep this position on Sunday.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina 26-29 April 2018
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:

“I wasn’t committed enough to go for it in the fog this morning. I was a bit too careful and maybe also a bit distracted when I got the message that Craig [Breen] and Esapekka [Lappi] were stopped – thinking something worse would be coming. At least we are here now – finishing the day in the points which isn’t too bad for the championship.

“Dani [Sordo] did a great job today and it would have been difficult to catch him anyway. It looks as though we’re not as fast here as we have been at the previous events. Like last year we struggled with the pace and we’re not exactly sure why – so at the end of the day fourth position is not too bad.

“Tomorrow we will of course try to hold on to this position, and it would be good to grab some extra points in the power stage. The three stages tomorrow are the toughest challenge of the weekend. We’ll have to see what the weather does and – if it turns out to be foggy as it so often does on El Condor – it will be a challenge for sure.”

Elfyn Evans (7th) said:

“It’s been another tough day to be honest, and we were still struggling in all the clean stages. We were able to make a difference in the fog – pushing very hard and setting a pretty decent time – but we’re still not where we would like to be and need to find the answer.”

Teemu Suninen (9th) said:

“We’ve been the second car on the road today so we had a lot of cleaning to do. I was a bit disappointed with the time in last stage, but it’s all a learning curve and all okay. Tomorrow we will experience another completely different type of stage where the roads are a lot slower and a lot narrower. I’ve still got some homework to do, but hopefully next time we will be better.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport 

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“We have used today to try and make up some places after our issue on Friday. The fact we are back into the top-five is a positive result considering where we were at the start of the day. We have made some changes to the car during the day in a bid to find more rear stability and there was a definite improvement. We are not a million miles behind Seb in fourth place but we are just trying to drive neat and tidy, and we’ll see where we end up tomorrow. As we’ve seen again today, this is a particularly tough and unpredictable rally.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi

“This morning started well: the car was working well and the setup felt good. Then on the long stage, I got a wrong pace-note, and in the fog, I couldn’t see anything and we went a long way off the road.

Luckily, we didn’t hit anything. This can happen, we are only human. The afternoon was really promising.

We all know the potential is there in the car, as Ott has been showing since yesterday, and I’m getting there step by step. I had some strong times and the road was getting cleaner for the drivers behind me, so, I’m pretty pleased with the speed. Every day is different here on Rally Argentina, and tomorrow’s stages are the slowest, very technical and narrow with a lot of rocks. Therefore, I don’t know if I can have the same confidence tomorrow, but I will certainly try for sure.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 05, Rally Argentina / April 26-19, 2018// Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (8th)

“There was a stone in the middle of the road and I couldn’t avoid it, given the width of the road. Unfortunately, I got a puncture straight away on the right rear tyre. It’s a shame because I was both quick and consistent, and I clearly felt capable of securing third place.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (14th)

“It wasn’t an easy day for us, mainly due to the fact we opened the road all day, which meant we spent the morning especially cleaning the road for those behind. I enjoyed the afternoon driving a C3 WRC that was more precise, despite making a minor mistake, which fortunately had no serious consequences.”

Craig Breen (DNF)

“Unfortunately, I turned in a bit too soon on a right-hander over a crest. I realised that I was going to hit a ditch so I tried to steer to avoid it but it was too little, too late and when we landed, we were thrown into a roll. Obviously, I’m sorry for the team, who deserved a better result, and am frustrated not to have been able to complete any more miles at this event, where I’m already short on experience. But I have to focus on the speed we showed at certain points and will aim to come back stronger in Portugal.”

 

Day Three – Sunday!

The last day then and with 55km’s spread between three stages and the narrowest stages including a double run of the iconic El Condor stage, with the added twist of running in the opposite direction this event could still throw up a surprise. The start list looked like this- Al Qassimi, Suninen, Meeke, Evans, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Ogier, Sordo, Neuville, Tänak.

Kris and Citroen were using the final day to test some changes and settings for Portugal and clearly it worked after setting the fourth fastest time and climbing one place to seventh. Esapekka lost a chunk of time dropping from sixth to eighth. Andreas won the stage with Seb just half a second slower and Ott third fastest with his lead now at 49 seconds, only disaster would stop him winning!

 

The penultimate stage, the longest of the final day at 22km. Tanak was taking a measured approach, whilst Thierry won the stage from Andreas and Dani. Despite being the third car on the road, Kris set a good time, just twelve seconds slower than Thierry for sixth fastest, the settings for Portugal proving their worth.

So, to the final stage and Thierry blazed through the stage and beat Seb to the power stage victory, taking all five points with Andreas third, Ott fourth and Kris fifth despite having to avoid a dog which he blamed for losing him half a second.

However, it was Ott Tanak’s weekend. He’d won his third rally and his first for Toyota. It was also their first victory of the year! He’d set the pace all weekend and brought himself into a championship battle with Seb and Thierry.

Final Overall Classification – Rally Argentina

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC 3:43:28.9
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +37.7
3 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:15.7
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +1:58.6
5 A. Mikkelsen A. Jæger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:02.6
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +3:06.3
7 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +3:25.7
8 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +4:32.6
9 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +5:38.6
10 P. Tidemand J. Andersson Škoda Fabia R5 +12:15.8

 

 

Let’s hear what he had to say.

Ott Tänak 

“It is very special to take my first win with the team. We have been improving the car very quickly, and it is now pretty much how I like it. It has been giving me great confidence. It is also great to see how much the team has been supporting me. To dominate a rally like this for the first time is very nice, but it has definitely not been easy. Earlier in the weekend I was pushing a lot. As the gap was growing it was possible for us to control it more and more, and today we were more on the safe side. The direction is good and we are closing up in the championship. It is still fairly early in the season, so now we just need to keep going in the same way in the coming rallies.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 05, Rally Argentina / April 26-19, 2018// Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Thierry Neuville

“I am thrilled to finish on the podium in Argentina and to have taken the Power Stage win. It has been something of a relief after the difficulties we had in Corsica, as we have been on the pace all weekend and felt completely comfortable with our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. The team has really done a great job for this rally and I am hugely thankful for everyone’s contribution. We knew we had to push on the Power Stage to take as many points as we could off Séb, and we were able to do that. I’m happy with what we take away from Argentina and look forward to Portugal.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
26-29 April 2018
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo

“What a fantastic rally this has been for the whole team. I am really happy to take my second podium of the season alongside Carlos, and to continue to show a competitive pace. The stage times have been very close all weekend long with lots of fighting for positions each day. Above all it has been a positive event for the team with a double podium that scores good manufacturer points. We didn’t take too many risks on this final day, concentrating on finishing third. Thankfully we had a decent buffer so could complete our mission to take the podium. We have had a huge support from the fans – we hope they enjoyed the show!”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“There was an amazing atmosphere this weekend and I’ve never seen so many fans out on the stages. It wasn’t an easy rally for us and we need to work on some areas to improve. But when you come away from a difficult event with 16 points, it’s not so bad.

“As expected, the stages were challenging again today. They were rough and slow with very low grip – and we weren’t super-fast in those conditions. We had to push hard to try and make a good time in the Power Stage, and we managed to grab four points which was important.”

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“All things considered, sixth place isn’t a bad result and it was good to get  some solid points on the board. But the pace just wasn’t there this weekend. It was disappointing and not what we came here to do. We need to do some analysis to try and understand why that was. The engineers will study the data, I’ll study the onboards, and hopefully we can get back on it in Portugal.”

Teemu Suninen (9th)

“It’s been a challenging weekend, but I have to say that the car has been amazing. It’s really nice to drive and really easy to drive. From that side I really enjoyed the rally – even though I would have liked to have been a bit faster.

“On Friday we weren’t able to set the fast times and that gave us the worst starting position for the next two days. It’s like that for everyone, but we need to work on having a better Friday so that we have a better starting position for the weekend.

“But overall it has been a good experience – not an easy one, but a good one. Next year it will be much easier to prepare as we’ll know what to expect and what the biggest challenges will be.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“Firstly, I extend my congratulations to Thierry, Nicolas, Dani and Carlos for their podium results here in Argentina. From the team’s point of view, this was a very competitive weekend with all three cars inside the top-five. We had a positive final day with a stage win, a second place and three points from the Power Stage. Obviously, we would have liked to fight those couple of places higher up but unfortunately our time loss on Friday prevented us from doing that. It has been a very closely fought and tough weekend, which has been a pretty good start to the run of gravel events.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (7th)

“It was a good day for us: we did set-up tests for Portugal and it was informative. The feeling was very good in the car. Apart from that, and the frustration of not being able to bring home the result that we deserved, the main thing for me is that the upgrades introduced this weekend to the C3 WRC enabled us to be a lot more consistent. I felt confident throughout the weekend, even when fighting for the podium. I felt that I had the situation under control at all times and we need to keep going in this direction.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (14th)

“Obviously, I’m disappointed for the team that we didn’t manage to secure a result that would reflect our real performance level. Nevertheless, I’m pleased to see our C3 WRC make regular progress and I’m convinced that this will lead to some good results very shortly. On a more personal note, running first on the road didn’t make life easy for me today, but I was happy to be back with the team and enjoy the atmosphere of the championship again.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT  

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“I can take home some positives from my first Rally Argentina. My speed was actually better than I was expecting on my first time here. It helped that we seemed to have the best car here: Ott controlled the whole rally, congratulations to him. We had many issues with punctures during the weekend and we need to investigate what was causing them. Although we had many things that caused us to lose time, we managed to do all the stages and get the experience. This first part of the season was never going to be easy, with events I did not have enough experience on, but there have been positive moments and I will take this on to Portugal.”

The next round is in Portugal, held from the 17th of 20th of May. I think we are set for an amazing mid season, with just twenty-eight points between first and third places. Also Mads makes his second start of the year with Citroen and they are bringing three cars to the party!

Thierry should be very happy with his result, bringing the gap down to Seb to just ten points. Hayden Paddon is re-joining the Hyundai team in Portugal as well and will want to do well.

Finally, Elfyn and Dan will want to get a good result there as well. They’ve not had the best start to their campaign.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings 
After round 5

1 S. Ogier 100
2 T. Neuville 90
3 O. Tanak 72
4 A. Mikkelsen 54
5 D. Sordo 45
6 K. Meeke 43
7 E. Lappi 40
8 J.M Latvala 31
9 E. Evans 26
10 C. Breen 20
11 S. Loeb 15
12 H. Paddon 10

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 5

1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 144
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 129
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 124
4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 93

Rally Argentina 2018 Preview – Back to Gravel!

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Argentina (ARG) – WRC 26/04/2017 to 30/04/2017 – PHOTO : @World

The WRC heads to Argentina for the fifth round of this year’s championship. Seb Ogier increased his lead over Thierry Neuville last time out with a dominant victory on the tricky roads that make the Tour de Corse. This year’s event features 18 stages and a very interesting twist at the end. El Condor, which is the Power Stage and is one of the most famous stages in the world will be tackled uphill this year.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Argentina (ARG) – WRC 26/04/2017 to 30/04/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Here’s the full stage schedule.

RALLY ARGENTINA SCHEDULE (GMT-3)

THURSDAY 26 APRIL

8.00am: Shakedown (Villa Carlos Paz – Cabalango)

6.30pm: Start (Villa Carlos Paz)

6.45pm: Regrouping (Villa Carlos Paz – 20 min)

7.08pm: SS 1 – Villa Carlos Paz (1,90 km)

7.33pm: Parc fermé (Villa Carlos Paz)

FRIDAY 27 APRIL

6.25am: Start and Service A (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

8.10am: SS 2 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 1 (16,65 km)

9.00am: SS 3 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (33,58 km)

10.13am: SS 4 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 1 (23,85 km)

12.08pm: SS 5 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 1 (6,04 km)

12.48pm: Service B (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)

2.51pm: SS 6 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 2 (16,65 km)

3.38pm: SS 7 – Amboy – Yacanto 2 (33,58 km)

4.51pm: SS 8 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 2 (23,85 km)

6.41pm: Flexi service C (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)

SATURDAY 28 APRIL

7.30am: Start and Service D (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

8.23am: SS 9 – Tanti – Mataderos 1 (13,92 km)

9.08am: SS 10 – Los Gigantes – Cuchilla Nevada 1 (16,02 km)

9.35am: SS 11 – Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos 1 (40,48 km)

11.38am: SS 12 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 2 (6,04 km)

12.15pm: Service E (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)

1.23pm: SS 13 – Tanti – Mataderos 2 (13,92 km)

2.08pm: SS 14 – Los Gigantes – Cuchilla Nevada 2 (16,02 km)

2.35pm: SS 15 – Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos 2 (40,8 km)

4.35pm: Flexi service F (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)

SUNDAY 29 APRIL

7.45am: Start and Service G (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

9.08am: SS 16 – Copina – El Condor (16,43 km)

9.55am: SS 17 – Giulio Cesare – Mina Clavero (22,41 km)

12.18pm: SS 18 – Copina – El Condor Power Stage (16,43 km)

2.21pm: Service H (Villa Carlos Paz – 10 min)

2.31pm: Finish

 

There’s 358km of stages this year. Last year, we saw welsh wizard Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt drive brilliantly throughout the event, only to be denied victory after some technical problems by Thierry Neuville who won by just seven tenths of a second.

Here’s the views from the drivers then.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Argentina is a famous event and one that attracts an incredible crowd of passionate rally fans. It creates a fantastic atmosphere that we appreciate during the stages. We have good memories of last year’s rally, which we won in dramatic style in the Power Stage.  I hope we can pull off a similar result this time around. It is a highly demanding event, very tough on the car and the crew, so it’s not one that we can take lightly.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
27-30 April 2017
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Argentina is probably one of my favourite rallies of the entire season. It is a very special type of gravel event because the roads are sandier which suits my driving style a bit more; you can really create an angle, which helps to attack the corner. The stages can get quite rough on the second pass so it’s important to take care of the car, but all in all it is a beautiful rally. El Condor and Mina Clavero are two stages I particularly look forward to.”

Dani Sordo

“The huge number of spectators really makes this a special rally for everyone. It is always nice to see so many people lining the routes and cheering us on. It gives us a real boost regardless of how we are performing. Of course, our aim is to be fighting towards the front. We have had a couple of solid results in a row, so we want to use the momentum to add another gravel podium to the one we scored in Mexico.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Argentina is a place where I have had some very enjoyable moments in the past, including my win there in 2014. It is a really challenging event and that makes it very satisfying when things are going well. There is a nice mixture of different stages over the weekend, from the fast and sandy roads in the valley on Friday to the rougher mountain stages on Sunday, including the famous El Condor, which is the Power Stage again this year. It is always a very spectacular stage with all of the fans up on the hillsides cheering us on. Argentina is a very demanding rally for the cars, and we learned a lot there as a team last year. Together, we are working hard to constantly improve the car, and hopefully we can show some good progress. It would be good to get some more points on the board.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Miikka Antilla. Photo credit – Toyota Gazoo Racing

Ott Tanak

“Rally Argentina has always been a tough event. There are some nice smooth and fast stages but also some pretty technical roads, so it’s a rally where you get a bit of everything in one weekend. It’s also really demanding on the cars, as the stages can get pretty rough. I finished third there last year, and that gives me confidence that I can perform well this time. I’m also feeling good after our pre-event test in Sardinia: the roads went from wet to dry during the test and the surface can be just as rough there, so I think that we got just the right conditions that we needed for a good test for Argentina. I am pretty happy with the improvements that we were able to make to the car and now I am eager to see how we are going to compare against the others.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Although I haven’t competed in Argentina before, I have done the recce twice, so I have some picture of what the rally is like. I have heard that it can be the toughest round of the championship: the surface can get very rough in places, and there are a lot of rocks, so you need to take care sometimes. It looks as though on Friday the roads are going to be a little bit softer than on Saturday, and then on Sunday in the mountains there will be more loose gravel and rocks. I am really confident that we can do much better in Argentina than in our last gravel rally in Mexico, where I think I learnt quite a lot. It is usually a rally where a lot of things can happen, so it might be that my main target will be to just try and stay out of trouble, but let’s see how it goes.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“I come into this fifth round very determined to move back up the championship standings, but this rally is such a challenge, you have to treat it with respect it deserves. I’ll do my very best, as always, but the weather may be a factor. The condition of the roads is often determined by how much rainfall there has been over the previous six months. In any case, it’s a rally that I really love, both for the wide range of difficulties involved and the warm, very enthusiastic welcome we get from the local fans. Added to which, I have always been comfortable here: I’ve finished on the podium twice in my four appearances, including my first WRC win.”

Craig Breen

“Having only raced here once before, and even then, only for part of the rally, when the other guys have been driving on these stages for years, I fear that my lack of knowledge may hamper me a bit. But I really enjoyed the brief glimpse of the rally that I got here last season and I can’t wait to get started. Testing went really well. It had been a little while since I had last driven the C3 WRC on gravel and the car has clearly improved on this surface. So, my confidence has been given a serious boost coming into this rally, which is set to be pretty demanding.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin. Photo credit Citroen Racing.

Khalid Al Qassimi

“I think this rally is going to be a real challenge for me because it has been some time since I last competed here, but I am very much looking forward to it. I’ll have to get my bearings again, review and revise the pace notes for the stages. My sole aim is to make it to the finish and enjoy myself, whilst also supporting the team.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“We’ve made a great start to the season and come to Argentina with the ambition of continuing this positive start. It’s the only event Julien and I are yet to win and, even though I won’t be fixated on a win this week, I would also love to stand on the top step of the podium in Argentina!

“We know that the win won’t be easy, but we have made a lot of progress this year and will certainly give it our best. The competition is strong, but if we can limit the time loss on Friday, which will be the key, I’m sure we’ll be in with a chance.

“The car felt great last time out on gravel, but the surface in Argentina is completely different. The roads are much softer and sandier here, but also quite rough in places meaning that a good result is dependent on a compromise between speed and endurance.

“We completed a development test in Portugal last week and everything continues to go in the right direction. We’re keen to see what we can do next week, and optimistic of delivering another strong result.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Mexico (MEX) – WRC 08/03/2018 to 11/03/2018 – PHOTO : @World

Elfyn Evans

“It’s great to see Dan fully recovered and back at an event that holds a lot of special memories for the both of us. It’s where we secured our first podium in 2015, and where we came so close to victory last year. That was a hard defeat to take at the time, but it made us stronger and we’ll be hoping to challenge for the top results again this year.

“It’s fair to say that I’ve not had the best start to the season, but we’re determined to turn that around this week. With a solid result in Corsica, and Dan back by my side in Argentina, we’re looking forward to the challenge and focused on delivering a strong result.

“You have to take a fairly measured approach to an event like this as there is very little margin for error. There’s the potential for something to catch you out around practically every corner – so you have to have a clean rally and keep mistakes to a minimum.

“We completed some development testing in the lead-up to this event where we were able to get a feel for driving on gravel again. We will have a fairly good road position for the opening day and the car feels good – so let’s see what we can do.”

Teemu Suninen

“Argentina will be an interesting event in that sense that I have not competed here before. We did the recce in 2016 and from what I can remember there are quite a few rhythm changes on the stages – high-speed roads often turning into very narrow tracks with no room to run wide.

“The rhythm change is the biggest challenge, but the roads are also soft in places and the risk of punctures is increased by small stones bordering the road.

“We completed a development test in Portugal and got some good kilometres under our belt on gravel. It was really important to have that test. We have trust in the car but I know that the conditions will be a little different in Argentina.

“My aim this week is to continue to learn, continue to gain experience and continue developing my driving. If we can do that, the good results will come too.”

 

Well, we are set for a very good rally. All the ingredients are there, with Kris and Thierry who have conquered these very challenging stages in recent years. Also, let’s not forget that Elfyn and Dan led a large portion last year, only to miss out by such a small amount in the end. Perhaps Seb will take his first win here this weekend. He’s come pretty close before, but with him opening the road throughout Friday, he’ll need to ensure that the time loss to the leaders is kept small.

One driver missing, which is a shame, is 2016 winner Hayden Paddon. I’m surprised that Hyundai didn’t have him in the third i20 this weekend. Still, we’ll see him next time in Rally Portugal.

Enjoy the rally!