Neuville increases WRC lead to 10 points with Rally Argentina win
Ogier grabs third in final stage
Thierry Neuville extended his FIA World Rally Championship lead by completing back-to-back wins at Xion Rally Argentina on Sunday afternoon.
Neuville, who moved into the series lead with victory in France last month, finished 48.4sec clear of Hyundai i20 team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen to increase his advantage to 10 points.
He seized the lead late in Friday’s rain-soaked opening leg when a broken driveshaft sent Ott Tänak into a time-consuming spin. He fended off the hard-charging Estonian on Saturday before an alternator problem ended Tänak’s hopes for good and left Neuville clear.
The Belgian eased through Sunday’s final three speed tests in the rough and rugged Traslasierra Mountains, near host town Villa Carlos Paz, to secure his second Argentine win in three seasons.
“I’m feeling great and we can be proud of what we’ve done. We had a fantastic car all weekend and I felt very comfortable. The entire team is working hard and we can see the progress. The result is good for the championship but upcoming events could be tougher,” he said.
Second for Mikkelsen at this fifth round of 14 represented a welcome change of form for the Norwegian. It was his first podium since Sweden in February 2018, coming on his return to the team after being axed for the previous round.
Sébastien Ogier snatched third in a Citroën C3, a further 16.4sec behind, in a dramatic finale in the iconic El Condór speed test. He overhauled Kris Meeke who struggled with a puncture in his Toyota Yaris for the final 5km. The gap between them was 1.4sec.
Ogier’s charge through El Condór also earned maximum bonus points in the Wolf Power Stage.
Meeke had earlier fought back after a 10sec time penalty late on Saturday for taking the wrong route demoted him to fifth from a podium place. The fired-up Briton quickly saw off Dani Sordo and Ogier this morning to reclaim third, only to fall back again.
It was a disappointing day for Spaniard Sordo. The i20 driver struggled for pace and slipped from fourth to sixth. He was also demoted by Jari-Matti Latvala, the Finn taking fifth in a Yaris on his 200th WRC start.
Teemu Suninen was a lonely seventh, and the only M-Sport Ford driver to finish after Elfyn Evans crashed out on Saturday.
Tänak salvaged some points by climbing to eighth in the last stage, with WRC 2 Pro winner Mads Østberg and WRC 2 victory Pedro Heller completing the leaderboard.
The championship remains in south America for round six. Copec Rally Chile makes its first appearance in the WRC on 8 - 12 May. The gravel road encounter is based in Concepción.
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