Saturday wrap: Ogier leads but woe for Latvala
"Without a problem tomorrow it will be okay"
Sebastien Ogier is on course for his third victory in this year’s world championship after overnight leader Jari-Matti Latvala retired from Rally Argentina with broken suspension.
Latvala was 10.6s in front of Ogier after 12 stages only for his Ford Fiesta RS WRC to suffer a broken front left suspension link on the very next run. Frantic repairs enabled the Finn to start the next stage, albeit out of order, but the makeshift nature of the fix led to his Ford team instructing him to stop in order to prevent further damage.
Ogier began Rally Argentina convinced that he would struggle to make an impact due to his limited knowledge of the South American roads. However, with four stages of the event remaining on Sunday, Ogier is 43.7s clear in his works Citroen DS3 WRC.
“I push like I can this afternoon,” said Ogier. “I got a very good rhythm and I’m very happy with my day. Without a problem tomorrow it will be okay [and I can win] but it’s never finished until the finish line.”
Ogier had been embroiled in close scrap with Petter Solberg and began stage 15 with a 21.1s advantage over the Norwegian. But when the ex-world champion’s Citroen suffered a power steering failure on the final test, Ogier was able to pull clear while a dejected Solberg slipped to fourth, 1m16.1s off top spot.
Mikko Hirvonen gave the factory Ford team some hope by completing day two in second place but the Finn was far from happy with his performance on Saturday’s stages. “I’ve not had the pace and I don’t know why,” said Hirvonen. “I’m really trying hard but I can’t make good times.”
Despite receiving a one-minute time penalty on Friday, world champion Sebastien Loeb is 4.0s shy of Hirvonen in third overall in the second factory Citroen.
“We are third now, not so far behind Mikko so not a bad situation and better than it was yesterday,” said the 37-year-old. “I can pass in front of Mikko but Ogier is too far ahead. But I have to push to catch Mikko.”
Norway’s Mads Ostberg reached the final service in Villa Carlos Pas in fifth overall in his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta. “I’m learning a lot and I’ve been able to make things in my pace notes for next year, which is important,” said the Argentina rookie.
Federico Villagra is the top Argentine driver in sixth overall at the wheel of his Munchi’s Fiesta. “It’s been a pretty good day. We made some changes for the afternoon and the car was really good. I really enjoyed today.”
Matthew Wilson was ahead of Villagra only to drop time on Saturday morning with a puncture. The M-Sport Stobart driver holds seventh overnight in his Fiesta.
Ken Block went no further than stage 11 after his Monster World Rally Team Fiesta suffered a driveshaft failure. The American is set to return for Sunday’s final four stages. Daniel Oliveira won’t restart under SupeRally rules following his crash on stage eight, which inflicted substantial front-end damage to his MINI John Cooper Works WRC.
Day three begins with the 48.21-kilometre Ascochinga-Agua de Oro stage, which is due to begin at 08:09hrs local time.
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