SS1, Super Especial Branca Unico (6.04 kilometres): First blood to Ogier
This is one of the championship’s most popular super special stages. It is located on the edge of the rally base of Carlos Paz and two cars at a time cover two laps of a twisty circuit. The surface is good and jumps, hairpins and fast sections provided great entertainment for the tens of thousands of people enjoying the May Day holiday.
How the action unfolded:
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.