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Discussion Starter #1
Next Rnd 5 Philips Rally Argentina May 1-4

Philips Rally Argentina, which first hosted a round of the World Rally Championship in 1980, is regarded as one of the toughest events on the WRC trail.

Based in Villa Carlos Paz north of the capital Buenos Aires, the town lies on the banks of the spectacular San Roque Lake in the south of the Punilla Valley close to the city of Cordoba.

The event is popularised by its jumps, water splashes and the lunar landscape of the high altitude El Condor stage, not to mention the tens of thousands of fans who line the route, and who are considered some of the most enthusiastic on the planet.

Although they are flowing in nature, the stages in Argentina are renowned for being slightly slower but more technically demanding than some of the other tests drivers experience in the WRC.

The surface is also quite sandy, which increases the risk of punctures because of a greater likelihood of rocks being pulled into the road by the competing cars. Because the road surface is softer, ruts can form following the first pass.

Argentina’s Southern Hemisphere location means the rally will take place in early autumn, which will increase the challenge facing the crews as they negotiate the testing terrain in colder and wetter conditions.

Official Website:

Listen Live:


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Discussion Starter #2
Volkswagen driver Jari-Matti Latvala set the pace this morning in qualifying for Rally Argentina.

Latvala, who took his first podium with VW in Portugal, completed the 4.59 kilometre test in 2 minutes 31.128 seconds, which put him just 0.035 seconds up on Citroen's Sebastien Loeb, who is back in action this weekend and taking in his third of four planned outings in the 2013 World Rally Championship. Latvala will now get first choice of starting position for the opening day on Thursday.

Current championship leader Sebastien Ogier meanwhile was third in his works VW Polo, ahead of Citroen duo Dani Sordo and Mikko Hirvonen.

Mads Ostberg was next up and sixth for the Qatar M-Sport WRT, with Thierry Neuville one spot back.

Drivers will now select their start positions at 13.00 hours local time. The action then starts gets underway with SS1 - a short 6.04 km SSS - at 16.00 hours local time.

Rally Argentina - Qualifying stage:

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 31.128s M
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +0.035s M
3. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0.292s M
4. Dani Sordo Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +0.912s T
5. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +0.951s M
6. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1.3s M
7. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1.8s T
8. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2.8s M
9. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +3.7s T
10. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6.2s T
11. Michal Kosciuszko Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC +7.5s T
12. Gabriel Pozzo Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +9.2s T

all times unofficial**



Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala has chosen to run 12th in the order on the opening day of Rally Argentina.

Latvala got first pick after just edging out Sebastien Loeb in qualifying and as is usually the case, he has opted to start as far back as he can as those ahead will then sweep the road and clean the line.

“I think it's better to start at the back,” Latvala told the official WRC site. “The weather is dry and even though it may rain, I don't think there will be much, so I think it will be alright.”

Behind, Loeb followed suit with 11th, and current championship leader, Sebastien Ogier went for 10th. The pattern was replicated for all the runners, with the exception of Evgeny Novikov. The Russian could have gone fifth, but instead elected to be the first on the road.

“I only had two options. I could have opted for first or fifth on the road and, to me, first makes the most sense for two reasons. Firstly, all the guys in front would have had a completely different line to me and, secondly, there will not be any stones pulled onto the road by cars ahead,” he explained.

Rally Argentina now gets underway later on today with SS1 - the short 6.04 km super special - running at 16.00 hours local time. The action then starts proper on Thursday, with two stages on the bill, both to be run twice.

Rally Argentina: Day 1 running order:

1. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC M
2. Gabriel Pozzo Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC T
3. Michal Kosciuszko Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC T
4. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC T
5. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC T
6. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC T
7. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC M
8. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC M
9. Dani Sordo Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC T
10. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC M
11. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC M
12. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC M



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Discussion Starter #3
SS1: First blood to Ogier

Sebastien Ogier laid down a marker for the weekend when he won this afternoon’s opening test by 1.9sec from Dani Sordo.

The championship leader was paired with arch rival Sebastien Loeb in the highlight heat. Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R outgunned his fellow Frenchman’s Citroen DS3 to claim the first bragging rights in the duel that everyone is talking about.

Ogier was relaxed and smiling at the finish, saying: “It was a nice feeling but the rally starts tomorrow. This was really fun and nice for the spectators.”

Loeb was third fastest in his first gravel stage since the opening day of Rally de Espana last November and paid tribute to his rival.

“Ogier was really fast. I did a lot of mistakes, usually I don’t do so many. It’s a great atmosphere here in Argentina. We will try to do a good rally and try to find a rhythm,” he said.

Sordo was a convincing winner in his head-to-head with Mads Ostberg. “I didn’t push like hell because I didn’t want to make a mistake at the beginning. This is only for show, but it’s part of the rally so we had to be careful,” said the Citroen DS3 pilot. Ostberg was seventh fastest in his Ford Fiesta RS.

Qualifying stage winner Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth in his Polo R, edging out fellow Finn Mikko Hirvonen’s Citroen DS3. Latvala missed the rally last year through injury and admitted: “I was a bit cautious in places on the first lap while I found my rhythm because I haven’t driven this stage for a while.”

Andreas Mikkelsen was fifth in another Polo R, just ahead of Hirvonen.

Michal Kosciuszko felt the dampers were too soft on his Mini John Cooper Works while a deflated Martin Prokop was unhappy with the engine in his Fiesta RS.



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Discussion Starter #4
SS2: Ogier fastest to extend lead

Mist, rain and slippery gravel greeted competitors in the mountains north of Carlos Paz, but none of that deterred Sebastien Ogier who was quickest by 5.0sec from Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala to extend his lead to 8.8sec.

The Frenchman’s only issue surrounded the split times coming into his Polo R. “I had splits at the beginning and then no more, so I’m not sure of the times of the others,” he said.

Latvala had a similar problem, receiving just one split early in the test. “I had no idea how I was driving without the splits. It was my very first time on this stage because I was not here last year,” explained the Finn, who took a chunk out of his rear left wheel rim after hitting a rock under braking.

Mikko Hirvonen was third, 6.1sec behind in his Citroen DS3, and breathed a sigh of relief at the stop line.

“I was a little bit lucky. I hit a rock with the front right tyre after about 17km but luckily there was no damage or a puncture,” he told WRC Live at the finish.

So what of the returning Sebastien Loeb? The Frenchman was far from comfortable after posting fourth fastest time in his Citroen DS3, 8.5sec down on Ogier. He is now 10.5sec behind his fellow countryman.

“I did what I could, but I struggled to find a rhythm,” he said. “The car is too much understeering for me and I’m finding it hard to get confident.”

Mads Ostberg was fifth in his Fiesta RS but struggled for visibility. “The wipers didn’t work. They were stuck in the vertical position and only started to work again when we took the car out of stage mode and into road mode,” explained the Norwegian.

click: ss2


SS3: Sordo rolls out of the top 10

Dani Sordo’s hopes of a good result in Argentina went out the window on Thursday’s second test when the Spaniard rolled his Citroen DS3.

The car suffered no major damage, and Sordo went on to complete the stage, but with the loss of more than seven minutes.

It was the second roll in a week for Sordo, who also crashed Citroen’s DS3 showcar at a promotional event in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

At the finish of SS3 Sordo suggested that a mistake in the pace-notes read by his co-driver Carlo Del Barrio was to blame for today’s incident.

“Sometimes it’s a driver error but this time it was a pace-note,” Sordo said. “I took a corner flat, but that was the wrong speed. After that we lost the power-steering and that cost us a lot of time. We’re both really disappointed.”

Sordo, who was seventh after SS2, dropped to 15th in the standings.

Mikko Hirvonen was the stage winner and moved up to second. The Finn’s Citroen DS3 sported badly worn rear tyres at the finish but Hirvonen was in bullish spirits. “The last 8km were tough because the rear tyres were really slippery but we kept going,” he said. “It was a good run otherwise - I tried hard.”

Hirvonen’s team-mate Sebastien Loeb was second-quickest, and pleased with the result of some set-up tweaks made on the road section from SS2: “I changed damper settings between the stages and adjusted my driving, it’s a bit better to drive, so not so bad,” he said.

Rally leader Ogier was third fastest, 6.7sec slower than Hirvonen and furious to have been delayed when he caught Sordo’s damaged Citroen mid-stage and struggled to pass it. “Yeah, a nice strategy there; to block us in the stage,” said the Frenchman sarcastically.

click: ss3


Thurs Midday wrap

Sebastien Ogier returned to service in Carlos Paz at the midpoint of the opening leg of Rally Argentina with a 3.6sec lead in his Volkswagen Polo R over Mikko Hirvonen’s Citroen DS3.

They shared the stage wins this morning, Ogier claiming fastest time through the opening Santa Catalina / La Pampa test before Hirvonen won Ascochinga / Agua de Oro, the longest stage of the rally.

Ogier was frustrated at the end of SS3 having been held up by Dani Sordo in the stage, but the Frenchman was calmer when he arrived at service and explained what happened.

“Dani had a problem when he went off the road. Unfortunately he restarted in front of us and didn’t see us for three or four kilometres. We had to follow him and lost a couple of seconds. When he restarted it was at a tight hairpin and I thought he would see us, but that’s rally,” said Ogier.

Sebastien Loeb is just 6.0sec behind his fellow Frenchman in another DS3 and the leading trio are pulling clear of the drivers behind.

Jari-Matti Latvala lies fourth in another Polo R, 23.5sec from the lead and rueing his lack of experience of these stages having missed last year’s event through injury.

Mads Ostberg is fifth, the Norwegian feeling out of sorts with his Ford Fiesta RS, but only 9.7sec behind Latvala. Andreas Mikkelsen completes the top six in the final Polo R, the Norwegian youngster 55.9sec from the lead.

In the WRC 2 category

Abdulaziz Al Kuwari moved to the front when overnight leader Marcos Ligato stopped his Subaru 14km into the opening test, reportedly with a broken wheel.

The Qatari was fastest through both stages in his Ford Fiesta RRC and leads Peruvian Nicolas Fuchs’ Mitsubishi Lancer by 59.2sec. A furious Al Kuwari arrived at the finish of the opening stage right behind Yuriy Protasov, the man ahead of him in the running order, whom he caught mid-stage.

Ricardo Trivino lies third, 1min 13.3sec behind Fuchs, the Mexican struggling with overheating brakes.

read more: midday wrap


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Discussion Starter #5
SS4: Disaster for Ostberg

Mads Ostberg took the dubious honour of being the first WRC-class retirement on Rally Argentina when he stopped his Fiesta RS on the repeated Santa Catalina stage.

The Norwegian, who drives for the Qatar M-Sport team, was fifth after the morning loop but was forced out with a broken steering arm 15km into SS4.

Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala were the two fastest drivers through the stage, making it a 1 – 2 for Volkswagen Motorsport. Both of the Polo R drivers left the midpoint service with four soft and two hard-compound tyres for the afternoon stages.

Ogier’s stage time was 4sec quicker than Latvala’s and enabled him to extend his rally lead to 12.5sec. “A good time, I’m happy and the car is working well - what more can I say?” said the Frenchman.

Latvala was pleased with his performance compared to that of his team-mate. “We were not too far away so I’m quite satisfied,” he said. “We had a good clean run. The surface was a bit soft, but there didn’t seem to be many rocks coming through.”

Sebastien Loeb was third quickest in his Citroen DS3 but was concerned by weather conditions that didn’t suit his afternoon choice of five hard-compound tyres.

“We lost everything in the last split and I don’t really know why,” said Loeb. “We are on the hard tyre because we expected the road to be dry but there was a little rain in there which was not good for us. It got a bit slippery so I’m hoping for drier conditions on the next one.”

read more: ss4


SS5: Ogier pulls clear in the fog

With drizzle and visibility down to 50 metres at the finish, there were few drivers with happy faces as they emerged from the gloom of today’s final test.

Leader Sebastien Ogier delivered his fourth stage win out of five, but even he seemed concerned. As he drew his Volkswagen Polo R to a halt, the Frenchman leapt from the cockpit to look at the rear of the car where he saw a badly worn left tyre, which appeared to be low on pressure.

“I didn’t hit anything, maybe in a watersplash or something. This stage was a bit dry for soft tyres, but over the loop it wasn’t a bad choice. I’m happy but tired,” said Ogier, who was 2.1sec quicker than Mikko Hirvonen.

Despite taking second fastest, Hirvonen was frustrated. “The windscreen misted so I think we will lose a lot of time. The stage was a lot worse than we thought. Hard tyres all round were probably not the best choice,” said the Citroen DS3 pilot.

Sebastien Loeb was third in the main Citroen squad’s other DS3, and the world champion was convinced hard tyres were a bad choice. “We had information that it would be 100 per cent clear with no rain, but that was wrong,” the Frenchman told WRC Live.

Fourth was Jari-Matti Latvala, but there was no disguising the anger in his voice after he dropped 10 seconds over the final 20km with a repetition of the handbrake problem that hindered his Polo R this morning.

“It’s really annoying,” he said. “I’m not happy at the moment. I understand it can happen, but it’s difficult in hairpins when you can’t use the handbrake. I’m struggling and lost a lot of time.”

Evgeny Novikov was an unflustered fifth in his Ford Fiesta RS with Thierry Neuville rounding off the top six in a similar car, despite having no split times for part of the test.

Martin Prokop rolled his Fiesta RS in a slow corner and needed spectator help to get the car back on its wheels. Gabriel Pozzo dropped almost five minutes with broken power steering in his Fiesta RS and Michal Kosciuszko stopped after ripping a wheel from his Mini John Cooper Works.

click: ss5


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Discussion Starter #6
Thursday WRC wrap:

Volkswagen Polo R driver Sebastien Ogier holds the lead of Rally Argentina at the end of Thursday's competition, the Frenchman returning to the service park in Carlos Paz with a 16.3sec advantage over his arch rival Sebastien Loeb in a Citroen DS3.

Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen, also in a Citroen DS3, is third, just 1.8sec behind Loeb.

After Wednesday night’s short head-to-head Super Special, today’s action was focused on two long gravel stages in the Sierras Chicas mountains and the Punilla Valley north of Cordoba.

The highly anticipated duel between Ogier, who leads the drivers’ championship standings, and reigning world champion Loeb is the headline battle of the rally. And Ogier clinched today’s opening round in convincing fashion.

After winning the Super Special, Ogier was fastest on Thursday’s opener to pull 8.8sec clear of the chasing pack, led by his Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.

He lost half of that advantage on stage three, however, when he get stuck behind the Citroen DS3 of Dani Sordo who had rolled earlier in the test. But from then on Ogier was in dominant form, extending his lead with wins on the two repeated stages in the afternoon.

Returning to the WRC after nearly three months away, Loeb took some time to get back up to speed. He was 8.5sec slower than Ogier on the opening test but seemed to have rediscovered his mojo on the next after making damper adjustments.

But Loeb’s efforts to catch Ogier on the two afternoon stages were thwarted by a poor tyre choice. Gambling on a repeat of the morning’s dry and warm conditions, Loeb and his Citroen team-mates elected to fit Michelin’s hard-compound option tyre.

In the event, the skies clouded over, fog closed in and light rain on stages four and five favoured Ogier and Latvala who had stuck with the soft-compound. Ogier latest admitted that the conditions almost destroyed the rubber, but the Citroen crews, who struggled for grip, felt theirs was the worse option.

Latvala is fourth overnight, 22sec behind Hirvonen. The Finn had a day of mixed fortunes; from the highs of two second-fastest stage times, to the lows of a technical problem that left him without a handbrake on two stages.

Almost a minute behind the Finn is Evgeny Novikov. The Russian became the leading Ford driver after Mads Ostberg hit a rock on stage four and retired with a broken steering arm and driveshaft.

Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen is sixth, just 17.4sec adrift of Novikov, with Fiesta RS driver Thierry Neuville another 17.4sec further back in seventh.

Martin Prokop had a tough day trying to get used to the feeling of his Ford Fiesta RS on Michelin tyres after switching from DMACK. The Czech rolled on stage five but remains eighth, albeit more than four minutes behind Neuville.

Local hero Gabriel Pozzo is ninth in another Fiesta RS, with Sordo, who lost more than seven minutes with his roll on stage three, rounding off the top ten.

Friday’s second leg of Rally Argentina kicks off at 0625hrs (local time) with the first stage, the 40km Santa Rosa – Villa del Dique starting at 0833hrs.

click: wrc wrap


Thursday WRC 2 wrap:

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari won all four stages today to build a potentially category-winning lead in a Ford Fiesta RRC on his first appearance in Argentina.

The Qatari ended the day with a 4min 29.8sec advantage over the Subaru Impreza of Yuriy Protasov. Ricardo Trivino holds third, 5min 20.3sec from the lead, in a Mitsubishi Lancer.

Argentine Marcos Ligato was fastest on last night’s opening super special stage in an Impreza, but he stopped with a broken left rear track control arm in today’s opening test and Al-Kuwari took control.

“We’re leading, so we’re happy. The windscreen was misting a lot on the final stage, and it was difficult to see. We are working on our pace notes because I have to brake early everywhere,” said Al-Kuwari, who admitted it was the first time he had driven in fog.

Overheating brakes were a common complaint, especially on the long 51km Ascochinga / Agua de Oro stage. Trivino struggled there this morning while Protasov encountered similar problems this afternoon.

In bigger trouble was Germany’s Armin Kremer, who dropped more than three minutes with a broken rear brake pipe on his Impreza in Ascochinga this morning.

Nicolas Fuchs held a solid second in his Lancer until both rear shock absorbers broke at the start of the final stage and the Peruvian dropped almost five minutes.

Lorenzo Bertelli’s challenge was short-lived, the Italian retiring his Impreza on the road section to this morning’s opening stage.

click: wrc-2 wrap

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Discussion Starter #7
SS6: Loeb error lets Ogier in

Today’s opening test was a battle of the two Sebs. Citroen’s version, Sebastien Loeb, was on target to claim his first fastest time but a mistake towards the finish allowed Volkswagen’s version, Sebastien Ogier, to secure his fifth stage win out of six.

Ogier’s Polo R was 1.4sec faster than Loeb’s DS3 and that enabled the championship leader to stretch his lead to 17.7sec.

Heavy overnight rain left the soft sandy surface wet and muddy and the conditions caught out Loeb, who was almost two seconds quicker than his rival after 30km.

“I made a mistake,” he admitted. “I went off at the end of a very fast section. It was muddy and under braking I went wide and had to come back. I lost three or four seconds. It was very slippery in a few places.”

That was a view with which Ogier concurred. “Some places are muddy and slippery and in the sand it really saps the power. But it was OK and it’s important to keep the time gap,” he explained.

Mikko Hirvonen was third in the main Citroen squad’s other DS3, 5.4sec from the pace. “The start was really good but I had a couple of moments on muddy corners and watersplashes and lost time,” he said.

Ostberg was fourth in his Ford Fiesta RS, running under Rally 2 rules after retiring yesterday. He was 6.7sec slower than Ogier and said: “It was quite rough, rougher than I expected. The car took quite a lot of beating but it was OK. I didn’t push too hard. I took it steady but I had a few surprises.”

Fourth-placed Jari-Matti Latvala made some changes to the set-up of his Polo R but the Finn wasn’t entirely happy en route to fifth fastest.

“The car is softer but I don’t have the best confidence. I made a couple of little mistakes, but I have to fight with Mikko so I need to do something,” he told WRC Live.

Dani Sordo was down in ninth, his Citroen DS3’s engine ingesting water at the big river crossing and spluttering through on three cylinders when the revs dropped.

Michal Kosciuszko stopped his Mini John Cooper Works with broken suspension, while in the WRC 2 category both second-placed Yuriy Protasov and third-placed Ricardo Trivino also stopped.

click: ss6


SS7: Mud mistake costs Ogier the lead

A mistake on a muddy corner has cost Sebastien Ogier the lead of Rally Argentina and enabled his rival Sebastien Loeb to steal the position.

Ogier’s error happened in some of the toughest stage conditions of the rally so far, with thick fog, huge shallow puddles and inconsistent grip making the going extremely tricky.

Ogier began the stage with a 17.7sec lead, but from the midpoint the split times showed that something had gone wrong.

“We went straight on at a long corner,” he told WRC Live. “The road tightened but we understeered on to mud and had to reverse out. The handbrake didn’t work again to save me.”

There were no signs of damage to Ogier’s Polo R but the incident cost him more than 40 seconds, dropping him to third behind the new leading Citroen duo of Loeb and Hirvonen.

Loeb was second-quickest through the 39km stage and confessed that he was lucky to have escaped a mistake himself. “I went wide like I did on the earlier stage but this time it cost me only about one second,” he said. “It’s tricky, eh? Very fast, the grip is good then suddenly it’s gone, watersplashes after the crests - it’s difficult.”

Asked whether he knew what had happened to Ogier, Loeb said: “I don’t know, but I was watching his splits and suddenly I went from being seven seconds up to almost 30.”

Hirvonen emerged from the fog in the third-fastest time and now lies second, 8.9sec behind his team-mate. The Finn also reported a near miss. “I went off and hit a rock with the right-hand rear wheel. There was a strange sound but we were lucky, I don’t think it cost us too much,” he explained.

Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth-fastest after a cautious drive in his Volkswagen Polo R. “I don’t like the fog so I don’t like the take chances. We need to be sensible now. I’m still looking for more confidence, especially under braking,” he said.

Mads Ostberg was the stage winner in a Ford Fiesta RS. After Michal Kosciuszko’s retirement on SS6, Ostberg was relaxed about his new start position of first car on the road. “It’s no disadvantage, in fact because there isn’t a huge amount of mud I think it’s quite good for me.”

click: ss7

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Discussion Starter #8
Argentina: Friday midday round-up

Sebastien Loeb leads Rally Argentina after an error from Sebastien Ogier this morning cost the Frenchman more than 40 seconds and dropped him to third.

Heavy overnight rain made conditions muddy and foggy and Ogier, who had won five of the six stages in his Volkswagen Polo R, went off the road in the 39.16km stage from Amboy to Yacanto. He went straight on at a slippery corner and had to reverse back onto the track.

Ironically, Loeb made a similar error on the previous Santa Rosa to Villa del Dique stage. His Citroen DS3 slid wide on a corner at the end of a long straight but his time loss was merely a handful of seconds.

The drama means Loeb returned to the mid-leg service at Carlos Paz with a 8.9 second advantage over team-mate Mikko Hirvonen. Ogier is 26.3 seconds off the lead.

Jari-Matti Latvala lies fourth in another Polo R, 44.8sec behind Loeb, with Evgeny Novikov quietly keeping out of trouble in fifth in his Ford Fiesta RS. The Russian is 1min 55.4sec from the lead.

Andreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville are dueling for sixth. The German holds the upper hand in his Polo R, but his margin over Neuville’s Fiesta RS is only 7.0sec. Almost seven minutes further back in eighth is Martin Prokop, recovering from yesterday’s roll.

The top 10 is rounded off by Mads Ostberg, who was fastest though the Amboy test, and Dani Sordo, who has struggled with a misfiring engine after his Citroen DS3 took in water at the famous Santa Rosa river crossing.

In the WRC 2 category, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari stretched his lead to 8min 49.6sec in a Ford Fiesta RRC. Nicolas Fuchs regained second in his Mitsubishi Lancer following the retirements of both Yuriy Protasov and Ricardo Trivino early in the opening stage.

Protasov was sidelined by an electrical problem with his Subaru Impreza’s throttle, while a broken differential stopped Trivino.



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Discussion Starter #9
SS8: Punctures for Hirvonen and Ogier

Punctures for Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Ogier enabled Sebastien Loeb to edge further ahead as the rock-strewn stages brought another turnaround in the top three.

Hirvonen dropped 35 seconds in his Citroen DS3 with a rear right flat, while Ogier lost a little over five seconds after a front left puncture on his Volkswagen Polo R. That meant Ogier relegated Hirvonen to third, the gap between them at 15.2 seconds.

After losing the lead when he slipped off the road this morning, Ogier came out in determined fashion and was three seconds quicker than Loeb at the early splits. However, Loeb profited from his fellow countryman’s woes to win the stage by 3.4sec in his Citroen DS3 to stretch his lead to 29.7sec.

“I pushed really hard,” admitted Loeb, sensing Ogier’s attack. “It’s rough, but you have to go over the rocks and hope that you don’t get what happened to the others.”

This morning’s pass had exposed plenty of large stones from the sandy surface and Ogier hit one of them about 7km from the finish.

His body language suggested he was frustrated to see Loeb pull further ahead. But his words when asked if he could still catch the leader were reminiscent of their battle on the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo.

“That’s not my plan. My plan was to catch Hirvonen. I only care about him,” Ogier told WRC Live, in a reference to Loeb’s limited programme of just four rallies.

Hirvonen’s DS3 completed the stage with much of the rear right bodywork flapping. “I drove on the puncture for 20km and it finally exploded 5km from the end. I went a little bit wide into a corner and hit a rock,” explained the Finn.

Andreas Mikkelsen was third fastest, despite clipping a bridge and convincing himself that he, too, had a puncture. “It was going like a snake afterwards!” joked the Norwegian, whose Polo R displayed no signs of a flat.

However, there was damage and he stopped on the liaison section to the next stage with broken suspension and retired.

Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth fastest in the other Polo R, the Finn having changed the suspension and differential settings in service.

Ford Fiesta RS duo Mads Ostberg and Thierry Neuville rounded off the top six, Neuville having changed his damper settings in a bid to gain more traction in the bumpy sections.

click: ss8


SS9: Disaster for Hirvonen

The repeat of the Amboy - Yacanto stage proved disastrous for Mikko Hirvonen, whose hopes of a podium finish were switched off by an electrical glitch aboard his Citroen DS3.

The Finn, who was third going into the stage, dropped almost six minutes and slipped to sixth.

“The main switch is cutting power all the time,” a dejected Hirvonen explained at the finish control. “It happened first on a bumpy section. The engine cut out and we had to switch everything off and on again to get going. It was like that all the way through. I lost count of how many times.”

Jari-Matti Latvala was quick to respond to Hirvonen’s time loss, but soon found himself dealing with problems of his own.

Arriving at the finish with his Polo R sporting front and rear panel damage, the Finn said: “When we heard that Mikko had a problem we took a chance and pushed hard. But soon after we jumped after a crest and the car landed straight in a hole in the road.”

“We hit it really hard and got a puncture. We stopped to change it and actually we did a really quick job. I was satisfied with that. At least we did something well today,” he added.

Changing the wheel cost Latvala almost two minutes, dropping him behind Evgeny Novikov. However with Hirvonen dropping behind them both, Latvala remained fourth overall.

Another reliable and consistent run from Fiesta RS driver Novikov moved the Russian up to third, albeit 1m 59.2s behind the lead pair of Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier.

Thierry Neuville was another driver reaping the benefits of a trouble-free rally. The Belgian moved up to fifth following Hirvonen’s problems and the pre-stage retirement of Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen - the man he had been chasing.

“Now that Andreas is not here there is little point in taking risks,” said Neuville, who drives a Ford Fiesta RS. “The stage was very rough and we’ve seen that many things can happen.”

Rally leader Loeb set the quickest time in his Citroen DS3, extending his advantage over Ogier by more than 10sec to 40.3sec.

“Yeah, it went well,” acknowledged Loeb. “It’s a stage where I was really fast this morning and it’s less rough than the stage before, so I tried hard to make a difference again. No problems at all.”

Meanwhile Ogier insisted that his slower time was purely the result of a cautious approach. “I have no more spare tyres and it was very rough so I was very careful - just going though,” he said.

click: ss9


Premium Member
1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Super Special Stage 10


Friday WRC wrap:

As the challenge from those drivers around him fell by the wayside during an incident-packed second leg of Rally Argentina, Sebastien Loeb steered clear of trouble to build a 39.8 second lead.

Leg 1 leader Sebastien Ogier, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala all saw their hopes diminish during a punishing day to leave the wily Loeb at the head of the pack in his Citroen DS3.

Just four more stages and 77.92km stand between the Frenchman and a remarkable eighth straight WRC victory in Argentina.

“It was a very hard day for tyres and the cars,” said Loeb. “I didn’t have any problems but I had to push hard because Ogier was pushing hard also. I expected it to be difficult and it was. I will try to be cautious tomorrow but I still have to keep a rhythm.”

Ogier won the opening test south of Carlos Paz amid fog and mud after heavy overnight rain. It was his fifth victory in six stages and stretched his lead to 17.7sec, but it proved to be the last of the day for the Volkswagen Polo R driver.

In the next test he lost the lead after sliding straight on at a slippery corner to allow Loeb ahead. Ironically, Loeb twice made a similar mistake on the morning stages but dropped a handful of seconds compared to Ogier’s 40 second loss, which relegated him to third.

Ogier attacked on the afternoon’s opening stage. However, the morning pass had dug out plenty of large stones from the sandy surface, and a front left puncture cost more time. The championship leader decided the fight was over and throttled back.

Despite the flat, Ogier climbed to second as Mikko Hirvonen punctured the rear right tyre of his Citroen DS3 in the same stage and lost 35 seconds. Worse was to come for the Finn when an electrical glitch in the following test cost almost six minutes and he fell to sixth.

Latvala tried to capitalise on Hirvonen’s woes but stopped to change a puncture after his Volkswagen Polo R landed in a hole after a crest. The switch took less than two minutes and he retained fourth, winning tonight’s super special stage in Carlos Paz.

The other big beneficiary was Evgeny Novikov. The Russian’s cautious strategy is reaping rewards and he is third in a Ford Fiesta RS, albeit more than two minutes behind Ogier and 8.2sec ahead of Latvala.

Fifth is Thierry Neuville, the Belgian’s Fiesta RS more than three minutes clear of Hirvonen. Mads Ostberg climbed to seventh in a similar car, the Norwegian winning SS7, with Martin Prokop recovering from yesterday’s roll in eighth.

Andreas Mikkelsen was another afternoon casualty. The Polo R pilot clipped a bridge in SS8 and retired on the following road section with broken suspension. Michal Kosciuszko stopped in the opening stage with similar damage to his Mini John Cooper Works.

Tomorrow’s final leg begins at 07.00 and comprises two loops of the classic Giulio Cesare and El Condor stages, in the spectacular moon-like mountains south-west of Cordoba. The finish is at 14.20 in Carlos Paz.

click: Friday Wrap


Friday WRC-2 Wrap:

After today's second full day of competition, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari remains on course for victory in the WRC 2 category of Rally Argentina.

The Qatari, who drives a Fiesta RRC, was fastest on all but one of Friday's stages and will take a commanding lead of 10m30.7s into Saturday's final leg.

With such an advantage over the rest of the field, the biggest challenge Al-Kuwari and his Irish co-driver Killian Duffy faced today was avoiding the hazards that had caught out so many of their WRC 2 rivals.

“We had a good gap so there was no need to push, instead we had to keep our concentration,” said Al-Kuwari. “The two repeated stages this afternoon were so rough it was like they were different roads from the first pass. Now we just have to get to the finish. There’s nothing more to prove.”

Peruvian driver Nicolas Fuchs is second, back in the position he lost on Thursday’s final stage after the suspension on his Mitsubishi Lancer collapsed. “I tried to go fast today but it was very rough. Tomorrow we will take it easier,” he said.

Fuchs regained the place following the retirements of both Yuriy Protasov and Ricardo Trivino early in the day’s opening stage. Protasov was sidelined by an electrical problem with his Subaru Impreza’s throttle, while a broken differential stopped Trivino’s Mitsubishi.

Argentine Marcos Ligato is third, 10m23.6sec behind Fuchs, having fought back from a suspension-related retirement on Thursday’s opening stage.

“I was so disappointed after yesterday that I didn’t really want to continue but my family said I must,” he said. “I must try to get as many points as I can so we were going flat out today.”

Juan Carlos Alonso is fourth in a Mitsubishi Lancer, more than five minutes behind Ligato.

Armin Kremer is fifth, eight minutes further back. The German had been third until the repeated Amboy – Yacanto stage [SS9] when steering damage to his Subaru Impreza delayed him by more than 20 minutes.

click: Friday Wrap


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1,207 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Final Day - Saturday

SS11: Latvala flat-out for third

While many drivers in the top ten were thinking about preserving their positions on Saturday's rough opening stage, the battle for third between Jari-Matti Latvala and Evgeny Novikov ignited.

Latvala had edged closer to third during Friday's competition and he began the classic test from Mina Clavero 8.2sec behind Fiesta RS driver Novikov.

Latvala was the stage winner, but he remained fourth having clawed back less than a second from Novikov.

“Evgeny started strongly and I was 1.5sec behind at the first split so I realised my speed was not going to be enough,” said Latvala. “So we increased the pace a lot - it was a big push in the end.”

Novikov was second-quickest, but furious about a technical problem that kept his car in ‘road’ mode and without the benefit of its turbo anti-lag system. “I’m not in stage mode - I couldn’t get it to work,” said the Russian. “I tried to do my best, that’s all, but there was no response from the throttle at all. I hope we can get it fixed.”

Mikko Hirvonen was third-fastest in a Citroen DS3, but was more concerned with keeping a reliable driving rhythm than trying to better his sixth place overall.

Rally leader Sebastien Loeb was fourth-quickest and extended his advantage to a seemingly unassailable 55.1sec. “Yeah, things are looking good,” the Citroen driver acknowledged, “I took it easy, it was really rough, narrow and bumpy in there. I don’t like it so much but okay, we are here.”

Second placed Sebastien Ogier was seventh-fastest, having given up on the fight for victory. “I just drive now, I don’t care about Loeb,” he said. “For the car it’s very rough, so I’m driving just like in the recce. It’s a nice landscape!”

Mina Clavero was the first of four stages today run without a service break, and crews carried all the tyres they would have for the 77 competitive kilometres that remain.

The Volkswagen Motorsport drivers, and Thierry Neuville, had six soft-compound tyres, while Ostberg, Novikov and the Citroen team drivers opted for five hard-compound Michelins.

click: ss11


SS12: Latvala edges closer

A second stage win this morning for Jari-Matti Latvala moved him to within 3.4 seconds of Evgeny Novikov as their battle for the final podium place continued unabated through a sun-kissed El Condor.

Enormous crowds witnessed Latvala powering his Volkswagen Polo R down the mountain, 3.1sec faster than leader Sebastien Loeb, but, more importantly for him, 3.9sec quicker than Novikov’s Ford Fiesta RS.

“Evgeny is starting to push much harder than yesterday. He is on a new level. I had to push myself very hard. There were a couple of ‘limited brakings’, so I can’t go any faster,” smiled the Finn at the finish.

Novikov was calmer than at the end of the previous test, which he had to drive with the car in road mode. “I sorted the problem. It wasn’t working in stage mode but now it’s OK. I didn’t have any moments but I’m on the limit,” admitted the Russian.

Loeb was relaxed, the Citroen DS3 pilot extending his lead to 1min 06.9sec over Sebastien Ogier. “I had no problems. It was a good stage. It was less rough than the opening test but I didn’t push too hard,” he told WRC Live.

Ogier was equally cool, the Frenchman seventh fastest in his Polo R and happy to settle for second overall and enjoy the atmosphere generated by the passionate Argentine fans amid the stunning scenery. “It was beautiful,” he said.

Mikko Hirvonen was third in his DS3, and another with the time to take in the surroundings. “This stage is in good condition and with the weather like this, it’s perfect for rallying,” said the sixth-placed Finn.

Mads Ostberg was fifth behind Novikov, the Norwegian Fiesta RS driver with his eye on taking bonus points in the Power Stage this afternoon.

“We’re taking it steady and making sure we get through. I tried to save my tyres for the Power Stage but it’s a little bit rough in places. I had the time to see how many spectators are here. It’s unbelievable. There are just loads and loads of people. I’ve never seen so many people in one place,” he enthused.

click: ss12


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Discussion Starter #12
SS13: Latvala grabs third

Another determined push from Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala paid off on the repeated Mina Clavero stage when the Finn toppled Evgeny Novikov from third.

Latvala set the fastest time in his Polo R, completing a hat-trick of stage wins today, to move 4.9sec ahead of Fiesta RS driver Novikov.

“It was a very good stage but we didn’t get any splits in the car so I just drove as fast as I could,” Latvala said at the finish control. “If Evgeny is faster then he is faster and I can’t do anything more. I’ve given everything.”

Novikov was next to complete, in the second-fastest time. “I tried to push hard. I did the best that I could, that’s how it is,” said the Russian.

There were position changes further down the order too when Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen both moved ahead of Ford Fiesta RS pilot Martin Prokop, who slipped from eighth.

Mikkelsen, in a Volkswagen Polo R, had tried to take Sordo as well, who he trailed by 4 sec before the stage.

“We retired here last year, so on the first pass I was careful. I thought I might be able to take Sordo on the repeat, so I came a bit quicker this time - perhaps too fast to save my tyres for the Power Stage - but when I saw his split I knew he was too fast,” he said.

Meanwhile Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier remain on course to take first and second.

Citroen star Loeb will take a 1m02.4s advantage over his Volkswagen rival into the decisive El Condor Power Stage.

“No dramas, but it was really rough with big stones, so not a nice ride. We kept the car in the ruts and drove carefully,” said Loeb.

click: ss13





Sebastien Loeb has won Rally Argentina, his second victory of a limited 2013 FIA World Rally Championship programme.

The Frenchman won the four-day rally in a Citroen DS3 by 55.0 seconds from Sebastien Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R. Jari-Matti Latvala was third in another Polo R.

Latvala also claimed three bonus points by winning the Power Stage at the final El Condor test. Ogier took two extra points for taking second fastest time with Mikko Hirvonen claiming the final point in a Citroen DS3.


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Discussion Starter #13
Loeb claims eighth Argentine win

Sebastien Loeb claimed an emotional eighth victory in Rally Argentina this afternoon on what is likely to be his final gravel event in the FIA World Rally Championship.

The reigning world champion finished a punishing fifth round of the season 55.0 seconds ahead of Sebastien Ogier, bringing an end to his fellow Frenchman’s run of three straight wins.

It was Loeb’s 78th world rally win and almost certain to be his last away from asphalt. The 39-year-old is tackling a limited programme of four rallies this season as he switches to circuit racing and opted for Argentina as his sole gravel outing.

“It’s great emotion to win here,” he said as fans surrounded his Citroen DS3 at the end of the final stage. “It was a tough rally with complicated stages, but there was a great atmosphere and it was great to feel that all weekend.

“After so many months since my last gravel rally it was difficult to find the feeling in the first stage and to get the car working for me, but it was the perfect drive,” added Loeb, whose final WRC appearance is scheduled for France in October.

Such was the desire from the passionate Argentine fans to see Loeb’s farewell that an estimated 80,000 people lined the final El Condor stage.

Ogier dominated the early part of the four-day, 14-stage event, winning five of the first six stages in his Volkswagen Polo R. But he could not break Loeb, and when he went off the road for almost 40 seconds yesterday morning, Loeb transformed a 17 second deficit into a lead.

After puncturing a front left tyre on the next stage, Ogier was happy to throttle back, content in the knowledge that Loeb’s programme means he cannot be a contender for a 10th drivers’ title.

“It’s a good result for us,” said Ogier. “We had a lot of problems this weekend but we’re happy to be at the end. We’re still in a learning year and at the moment, after five events, it’s going well so I want to thank the team for all the work they’ve done.”

“We had a few problems, even this morning, and I finished the rally with a car not really good, but still I managed to push and get extra points in the Power Stage,” added Ogier, who leads the drivers’ standings by 54 points.

Jari-Matti Latvala finished third in another Polo R after a fierce final day tussle with Evgeny Novikov. The Finn dropped almost two minutes yesterday with a puncture and started today 8.2 seconds behind the Russian’s Ford Fiesta RS.

Latvala won all four stages, including the bonus point-paying Power Stage, and his podium was secured when Novikov spun early in the final stage.

Thierry Neuville finished fifth in another Fiesta RS, the Belgian constantly working to improve the set-up of his Fiesta RS. Mikko Hirvonen was second after Ogier’s problems, but a puncture followed by electrical troubles with his DS3 cost more than six minutes and he slipped to sixth.

Mads Ostberg recovered to seventh in a Fiesta RS after damaging his car’s steering and a driveshaft in the opening leg.

Andreas Mikkelsen snatched eighth from Dani Sordo on the last stage after gearbox problems compounded the Spaniard’s first leg roll. Martin Prokop completed the top 10 after he, too, rolled in the opening leg.



Al-Kuwari takes WRC2 win in Argentina

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari survived a last minute scare in his Ford Fiesta RRC to wrap up a convincing win in the WRC 2 category of Rally Argentina.

The Qatari, who took the category lead on stage two, began the final day of competition with a comfortable advantage of 10m30.7sec over the Group N Mitsubishi Lancer of Nicolas Fuchs.

Three consecutive stage wins on Saturday’s first three stages enabled Al-Kuwari and his Irish co-driver Killian Duffy to extend this to 13m19.6s by the end of the penultimate stage.

But all was not well with the handling of the Fiesta, and what Kuwari initially felt was a puncture turned out to be a broken rear cross member.

He gave away some of his advantage with a cautious approach through the rocky repeat of El Condor to take the win from Fuchs by 13m06.9s.

“I’m very happy,” said a relieved Al-Kuwari. “It’s our second WRC 2 win of the year and we are now leading the championships for drivers, teams and co-drivers. I’m looking forward to the next round in Greece.”

Peruvian Fuchs passed Al-Kuwari on the final test to round off his weekend with a stage win. “It’s been a great weekend, we came here looking to win and we’ve taken maximum points in our class,” said Fuchs, who leads the WRC 2 Production Cup by 33 points.

Argentine Marcos Ligato was third in a Subaru Impreza WRX, more than 10 minutes behind Fuchs after his suspension-related retirement on Thursday.

Juan Carlo Alonso was fourth in a Mitsubishi, six minutes further back, with Yuriy Protasov, who retired on Friday’s competition, rounding off the top five.

Ricardo Trivino was sixth, and the only other finisher following Armin Kremer’s retirement at the end of SS12 with broken suspension.



Next Rnd 6 Acropolis Rally May 31- June2

High ambient temperatures, rocky, undulating roads and dust combine to make the Acropolis Rally one of the most taxing on the World Rally Championship calendar with car and crew subjected to a particularly stern test.

Greece returned to the WRC schedule in 2011 after missing out in 2010 when its absence was keenly felt, not just by the fans that descend on the event in great number, but also by the drivers. The Acropolis is one of the most iconic events in the sport and winning it earns significant kudos. It has only missed two years since the WRC was first established in 1973 (the other one being a non-WRC rally in 1995) and was a favourite of Colin McRae who won it an amazing five times.

Following a somewhat nomadic existence in the early part of the new millennium with the base chopping and changing between various locations around the Greek capital Athens, the move to Loutraki for 2009 proved a hit and the town on the east coast of the Gulf of Corinth will continue to host the rally in 2013 on the back of a successful return in 2011.

Following the Qualifying Stage over a 6.20-kilometre course on Thursday morning (24 May) to decide the running order for day one, crews head east to the capital Athens and the famous Zappion for the ceremonial start, before the event proper begins with a 25-kilometre test run late in the evening.

Friday’s itinerary consists of eight stages over a demanding 12-hour period. With service during the day restricted to two 15-minute remote halts in Itea, the challenge is further increased due to the limited amount of repair work that can be undertaken.

Saturday’s route of eight stages takes competitors closer to base in the Peloponnese region and includes the 21-kilometre Ziria stage, which the event organisers describe as “very interesting”.

Sunday is a slightly more tame affair with five stages including the 3.97-kilometre New Loutraki Power Stage.

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