Magalhaes saves Peugeot's honour
An unbelievable sequence of incidents put paid to the best efforts of defending IRC champion Kris Meeke to reach the finish of the 30th Rally Argentina. Bruno Magalhaes continued his familiarisation with international competition on his way to securing sixth place in the Peugeot Portugal-backed 207 S2000.
Bad luck for Kris Meeke
Rally Argentina is a major event for Cordoba province. The competition has been based there every season since 1984 and invariably attracts tens of thousands of spectators who, in addition to being connoisseurs of the sport, have become increasingly disciplined over the years. In 2010, for the first time, the fixture was included as a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), the chief showcase for the Peugeot 207 S2000.
True to tradition, last weekend's rally drew a huge crowd to the stages near Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, in the Punilla sierra and even to the super-special which was run in the streets of the event's home town, Villa Carlos Paz. Friday evening's show test saw Kris Meeke claim the fastest time to take an early lead, and he went on to complete the first leg in third spot, a position that he believed would allow him to mount a challenge for victory.
"The first full day went quite well for me," observed the outgoing IRC champ. "I used the morning to get a feel for the terrain which was new to me, whereas my main rivals had competed here last year. I was very pleased to find myself in third place, just 15 seconds off the lead. I then made a few mistakes during the afternoon, though. To begin with, I chose hard tyres and they took a little time getting up to their full potential. On the following stage, I had a hairy moment when I was too quick into two corners, and that cost me a fair amount of time. Then, towards the end of the loop, I picked up a puncture, although I don't know why. Despite all this, I was still third, so I felt quite upbeat about my chances for Sunday, and I had every intention of giving it my very best shot." The Briton's hopes were soon to be dashed, however...
Practically as soon as action resumed on Sunday morning, Kris sensed that his car was down on power. The changing weather had seen a zone of low pressure move in over the area and the mapping of his engine was no longer suited to the lower atmospheric pressure.
"I found myself having to use the clutch to clear all the uphill hairpins and I soon realised that I would have to settle for third place..."
The team profited from the Ulsterman's next visit to service to modify the mapping of his 207 S2000 and the crew had the finish of the rally in its sights when it was sidelined for good...
"I managed to post a quick time on the last loop of three stages, but my steering was getting stiffer. On the next test, a brake reaction rod failed without me hitting anything. I tried to make it out of the stage at slow speed but it just wasn't possible, and I was forced to call it a day."
A consistent run from Bruno Magalhaes saves Peugeot's honour
The best-placed 207 S2000 at the finish was the Peugeot Portugal car in the hands of Bruno Magalhaes.
"It's no exaggeration to say that I didn't feel completely at ease to begin with," he admits. "I wasn't helped by the organisers who handed me a difficult start order, but that doesn't explain everything. This was only my fifth rally outside of Portugal and I still have a great deal to learn, especially with regard to the accuracy of my pacenotes. My current system doesn't allow me to push as hard as I would like after just two or three passes during recce."
Bruno nonetheless succeeded in gradually accustoming himself to the stages and managed to fight his way back up to sixth place.
"I had a better feel for the lie of the land and I was able to sense where the changes in grip would come. It's all about experience, and I'm getting more and more of that."
Peugeot remains second in the IRC's provisional Manufacturers' standings, while Kris Meeke is fourth and Magalhaes sixth in the Drivers' points table.