Citroën : The DS 3 WRCs lead the way in Argentina
— Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle secured three stage wins in their DS 3 WRC as they ended day one of Rally Argentina leading the overall standings.
— Their team-mates in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson, finished the event’s longest leg right behind them in second position.
— On their first competitive outing of the season in the DS 3 WRC, Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson lie eighth overall.
After the shakedown was held on Wednesday afternoon, most of Thursday was devoted to a road section to San Luis for the opening test, a city-centre super special stage. The run offered the Citroën Total World Rally Team crews the chance to get their rally underway before tackling Friday’s long stages…
This morning, the 51.99-kilometre long Agua de Oro/Ascochinga test was expected to provide the first real clues as to the pecking order of the crews. However, the difficulties of the route decimated the WRC field. Sébastien Ogier retired, whilst Andreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville lost ground. Despite the tough conditions, Kris Meeke set the fastest time to move into the overall lead, with Mads Østberg grabbing fourth place.
Slowed by a puncture on SS3, the Northern Irishman saw his lead cut in half, whilst Mads Østberg moved up to third overall.
After the thirty-minute midday service period, Kris Meeke continued to forge ahead. Particularly quick on the long stage, he extended his advantage over second-placed Jari-Matti Latvala and Mads Østberg, who consolidated his third place.
Even quicker on Villa Bustos/Tanti 2, Kris Meeke ended the first leg – the longest of the rally – with a lead of over a minute on Mads Østberg. The Norwegian moved ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala into second place on the final stage of the day.
Tomorrow’s leg features four timed stages, contested over a total of 131.2 kilometres. An early start awaits the crews – Parc Ferme opens at 6.20am, with service periods in Carlos Paz at 12.31pm and 6.57pm. The running order will be the same as today.
Kris Meeke: “We knew that it would be an incredibly difficult day, even the most experienced drivers had problems. For us, on the other hand, the DS 3 WRC was perfect. Although the road surface was very rough, I felt really comfortable in the car and the times were good. I just focussed on my own driving. For the time being, everything is going well, so there’s no need to change anything!”
Mads Østberg: “We are sticking to the plan we had before the start of the rally. The aim is to drive at our own pace, without taking any risks. It’s great to finish in second position after this difficult first leg. It augurs well for the rest of the rally, especially with our team-mates in front of us. We have to keep going tomorrow.”
Khalid Al Qassimi: “It was very rough. I decided to be cautious on the first loop to get my bearings. I tried to increase my pace a little bit after that. This afternoon, I went with soft tyres. It was more difficult on the last twenty kilometres, but that was part and parcel of our strategy.”
Stéphane Lefebvre: “We had to drive in the dust kicked up by the crews completing the stage ahead of us. This afternoon, we broke a shock absorber during the long stage, on the hard, extremely rough roads. I have been making a lot of corrections to my pace notes between the two runs. You really need experience in conditions like these to be comfortable. We saw a lot of crews stopped at the side of the road throughout the day, so it’s positive that we are still in the race.”
HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – Super Especial Merlo – San Luis (2.68km) – Sandwiched in the middle of mammoth 470-kilometre long road section, a 2.68km super special stage kicked off proceedings in the province of San Luis. Sébastien Ogier won the stage, finishing just ahead of Kris Meeke. Mads Østberg was eighth, less than two seconds off the pace.
SS2 – Agua de Oro/Ascochinga 1 (51.99km) – Sébastien Ogier stopped at the final section of this very long stage, whilst Neuville and Mikkelsen picked up punctures. Despite a handbrake issue, Kris Meeke won the stage, finishing over thirty seconds ahead of Dani Sordo. The DS 3 WRC driver became the new overall rally leader. Mads Østberg moved into fourth position.
SS3 – Villa Bustos/Tanti 1 (19.71km) – Slowed by a rear right-hand puncture, Kris Meeke lost 18.6 seconds to Jari-Matti Latvala. Mads Østberg was second fastest on the stage, promoting him to third overall. Khalid Al Qassimi moved into the top 10.
SS4 – Agua de Oro/Ascochinga 2 (51.99km) – After the midday service, the crews returned to action on hard, very rough roads. Kris Meeke set another fastest time on this long stage, ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Mads Østberg. Khalid Al Qassimi improved, moving up to eighth overall. Ott Tänak ripped off a wheel.
SS5 – Villa Bustos/Tanti 2 (19.71km) – A third stage win in five for Kris Meeke. Hampered by a transmission problem, Jari-Matti Latvala finished the stage some 53.1s behind the leader, whilst Mads Østberg moved closer to second position. Khalid Al Qassimi set the seventh fastest time.
SS6 – Super Especial Fernet Branca (6.04km) – The fastest time was set by Dani Sordo; he was closely followed by Mads Østberg, who moved into second overall, ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala. Kris Meeke extended his lead to over a minute.f Khalid Al Qassimi ended the leg in eighth overall. In the RC2 class, Stéphane Lefebvre returned to Carlos Paz in fourth position in his DS 3 R5.
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