Midday wrap: Latvala heads close battle

"It’s not going as good as I wanted"

By Franck Drui

28 May 2011 - 17:16
Midday wrap: Latvala heads close battle

The battle for victory on Rally Argentina is tightly poised at the midday service halt in Villa Carlos Paz following Saturday’s opening quartet of stages in the Calamuchita valley south of the event base.

Jari-Matti Latvala started the day’s first test, a 21.57-kilometre mixed-surface blast, with an overnight lead of 18.2s in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. He was able to extend that advantage slightly when chief rival Petter Solberg spun his Citroen DS3 WRC midway through the stage.

However, on the two all-gravel stages that followed the Finn struggled to resist new second-placed driver Sebastien Ogier’s advances as he battled through the loose-surface gravel running first on the road. But he hit back on stage 11, which means his margin over Ogier, in a Citroen DS3 WRC, is 17.8s with four stages of day two to go.

“It’s not going as good as I wanted,” said the 26-year-old Latvala. “On the first stage I made a lot of mistakes and on the second stage also. The third and fourth stages were okay but I know I’m losing a lot of time with the dust on top of the road. The only thing I can do is to push on.”

Ogier moved into second overall by winning Saturday’s opener and trimmed Latvala’s lead on the next two stages. But he was marginally slower than Latvala through stage 11, which he completed with slight damage to his front-right tyre.

“I am happy with my performance because I am discovering the stages,” said Ogier. “I correct a lot my pace notes and I’m ready to push a lot this afternoon.”

Solberg holds third in his privateer Citroen, which he said had been slowed by his decision to carry two spare wheels in contrast to the bulk of his rivals who are carrying one spare only. He’s three seconds behind Ogier and 20.8s adrift of Latvala.

“It was a good morning but I was diving with two spares, which was not a good idea because I was losing time,” said the Norwegian. “I was also struggling too much with understeer so we will see if we can do something in the service area.”

Sebastien Loeb has claimed three stage wins this morning as he continues to make up the time lost when he was handed a one-minute time penalty on Friday. The Citroen star and world championship leader is now 26.2s adrift of fourth-placed Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen.

“The last two stages were very good but I made a mistake in the morning by using worn tyres,” said the 37-year-old. “Since that I have been pushing very hard and it’s going very well but I’m so far behind. I will continue to push, which is the only thing I can do.”

Norwegian youngster Mads Ostberg is a solid sixth in his M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta but team-mate Matthew Wilson lost ground on stage 10 when he nudged his Fiesta’s right-rear tyre off its rim hitting a bank. He falls to eighth overall behind Argentine Munchi’s Fiesta driver Federico Villagra.

“It was my mistake, I was too committed on a left-hander and hit a bank on the outside quite early in the stage,” said Briton Wilson. “Three or four kilometres from the end the tyre came off and we lost a lot of time.”

Ken Block has endured a difficult morning in his Monster World Rally Team Fiesta. Although stage eight proved trouble-free for the American, a reported transmission glitch has slowed his progress and contributed to a significant loss of time.

Daniel Oliveira restarted on day two under SupeRally regulations following his retirement with a suspension failure on Friday afternoon. Sadly for the Brazil World Rally Team star he went no further than Saturday’s opening test when he crashed his MINI John Cooper Works WRC.

New Zealander Hayden Paddon continues to dominate the Production Car World Rally Championship in his Subaru Impreza WRX, despite his team being unable to solve the power glitch that has affected him for much of the event.

Saturday’s action restarts with the repeat of the Las Jarillas-Falda del Carmen test, which is due to go live at 14:08hrs local time.



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