WRC

Rally Argentina: Final summary

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) claimed his fourth consecutive victory to widen his championship lead to 21 points. The Frenchman cruised through the final day to head Petter Solberg (Subaru) by 44.6sec. The Norwegian was penalised 10 seconds on the ...

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) claimed his fourth consecutive victory to widen his championship lead to 21 points. The Frenchman cruised through the final day to head Petter Solberg (Subaru) by 44.6sec. The Norwegian was penalised 10 seconds on the penultimate stage for a jump start. Gigi Galli (Peugeot) secured his first WRC podium on only his second rally in the car. Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) overtook team-mate Henning Solberg on the opening stage this morning to ensure fourth and a happy birthday for Austrian co-driver Ilka Minor. However, with fifth secure, Solberg stopped on the final stage in Cordoba stadium with a broken clutch and dropped to seventh. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) was handed a 60 second penalty last night for speeding in the service park, which dropped him to seventh. He closed the gap to Dani Sordo (Citroen) to just 1.1sec before the final super special stages but the Spaniard held on to take fifth following Solberg's troubles.

Kronos Total Citroen

Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena leave Cordoba with 10 championship points as reward for their second consecutive victory on the Rally Argentina. This success, their second gravel win of the year after Mexico, is also the fourth of the year for the Franco-Monegasque pairing - who now take their total of career victories up to 24. Sebastien currently has an equal number of wins to Tommi Makinen, and is now headed only by Colin McRae (on 25 wins) and Carlos Sainz (on 26). Daniel Elena equals the record number of wins for a co-driver.

Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "Everything about this rally is breathtaking. The scenery, the high-speed water splashes and above all the fantastic welcome we get from the Argentine fans, who give us the best reception in the world. My Citroen was as reliable, fast and consistent as usual. That was just as well, because this rally was particularly difficult this year - mostly down to the weather. We had a good fight with Marcus [Gronholm] on the first day and that continued with Petter [Solberg] yesterday. For all those reasons, winning here is a special pleasure for me. As well as that, myself and Daniel extend our lead in the drivers championship while Kronos does the same in the constructors standings. As I still think we'll have a tight battle on our hands this year, that's no bad thing."

Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: "One of my objectives is to gain confidence. There's nothing better than setting fastest times to help that along. Seb has proved that the Xsara has nothing to fear from any of its rivals. With some experience and hard work, I need to make more and more use of the car's potential. My goal is to help Kronos defend its position at the head of the manufacturers' championship. "

OMV-Peugeot Norway

The Rally Argentina was further proof that Manfred Stohl belongs among the top performers in rallying. The 33-year-old OMV driver only missed the podium by an inch at his 100th WRC start and finished in excellent fourth place. He currently shares fourth place in the World Championship with Petter Solberg (No/Subaru). Henning Solberg had lots of bad luck. The Norwegian OMV driver fell back from fifth to seventh place on the last super stage since the clutch of the Peugeot WRC 307 stopped working right in the middle of the stadium-stage. The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team and Team Manager Jackie Bozian are nevertheless happy about having scored ten points in the manufacturer WRC.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "It was my present to Ilka, who is celebrating her birthday today. Unfortunately we were not able to quite catch up with Galli. But making good almost 45 seconds on two special stages gives me a lot of self-confidence. We are very satisfied and feel invigorated for the next two gravel-rallies in Sardinia and Greece. I believe that we might be able to reach the podium then."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "That is part of the game. It can happen anytime. Of course, it is a bitter pill when you're so close to the finish. There is still a positive side to it for now we are seventh and know that we were actually much faster. It would have been much worse had we reached this place because we simply weren't able to attack anymore. Therefore I really mustn't be dissatisfied.

BP-Ford

Ford extended its record-breaking run of points finishes in the FIA World Rally Championship to 66 when Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen finished 10th on Rally Argentina today. The Finns recovered from first-day transmission troubles while leading to climb back onto the leaderboard and claim a manufacturer point to extend the longest scoring run in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "The time loss on Friday was a shame and left us struggling for a result. Tenth gave the team a point but it obviously wasn't what I wanted and I'm disappointed. I had hoped for more. At least I was able to come back and set several fastest times over the second and third legs and show again that the car has plenty of pace. The rally wasn't hard on tyres, despite the long sections with no opportunity to fit new rubber, and our engineers and those from BFGoodrich made some good choices. The stage in the soccer stadium was a spectacular show. As a driver, it's great to perform in front of so many people in such a great atmosphere."

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen:Retired (Engine)

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team driver Matthew Wilson has scored his first ever FIA World Rally Championship point, taking an eighth place finish in Rally Argentina on the same day as setting his first fastest WRC stage time. Wilson, at 19, is believed to be the youngest driver to take a driver point in the WRC and also to set a fastest stage time. Sunday's final day of the rally saw two classic Argentinean stages tackled, the 20km Mina Clavero and the dramatic 17km El Condor. Wilson took the first stage cautiously then pushed harder in the second to close to three seconds adrift of his team-mate heading to the two Super Specials in the Cordoba football stadium in front of a roaring crowd of over 40,000. Companc was the first Stobart car to tackle the 2.2km stage, going head to head with Subaru ace Chris Atkinson. As the Argentinean crowd cheered Companc's launch control did not work as it should and the Ford Focus WRC 05 stalled at on the line. With the margin so close, and the Super Special so short, Companc would not be able to recover the lost time and it handed the advantage to Wilson for his two short runs.

Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "It's mega, really, really good. It was a shame for Luis, it's so rare for the launch control to have a problem but the good thing for us was the stage got a lot faster as the more people who had gone over it made the grip better. It was a blooming good way to end the rally that's for sure. The grip was good, we were nice and neat and tidy and I didn't do anything silly as I knew I just had to get to the end. The crowd here is so keen on rallying that they were shouting and screaming, I've never seen anything like it. It felt so good that we'd got the point and then it came over the radio we'd done the fastest time. We're flying home straightaway so I'll be trying for an upgrade and I'll definitely be drinking some champagne."

Luis Perez Companc/ J-M Volta: "It was a very bad day! On the second stage today I went off the road and I hit very badly the car but it seemed that everything is okay but I lost a big difference with Matthew so I was only three seconds ahead going to the stadium. I thought I would make a bigger difference from Matthew on Saturday but he also was pushing hard so the difference between us was very small, but finally I got past him. In the podium I had a problem with the launch system, I couldn't get into gear and I lost too many seconds to Matthew. I lost eighth place but I'm very happy for the team, for the rally and for the people here, it's incredible how fanatical the fans are here, they love the rally."

555 Subaru

Petter Solberg finished Rally Argentina in second place. Solberg set the fastest time through one of the toughest tests in the WRC, the classic El Condor pass, to secure his second podium of the season. The Subaru World Rally Team concluded a successful Rally Argentina with a double-points finish as Chris Atkinson recorded two top five times to finish sixth.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "I wanted to win here but I think to finish second is still very good, we can't complain because things went almost according to the plan. I tried everything and we would have had a very good chance of winning this rally if it wasn't for the problems we had, but underneath it all I'm feeling much more positive. The car is getting there now, we're back fighting for the lead and I can go for an attack - it's been a long time since I felt like this. I'm looking forward to the next rally!"

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "It's been a difficult rally for us, it started out quite well, we were running in a high position early on, but then some problems with the car and a mistake from me cost us a lot of time. We struggled back up the order and then got a minute penalty - if it wasn't for that, I think we could have been fighting for a much better result. But that's life, we learned a lot here and we'll see what we can do in Sardinia."

Next Event:
The gravel roads of Sardinia are a comparatively new addition to the World Rally Championship, with the inaugural 2004 event dominated by Petter Solberg and Subaru. The stages consist of soft, almost sandy gravel, which emphasises the traction and braking performance of each car. The weather varies a lot, with high temperatures and rain both possibilities.

-www.rallye-newsletter.com

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Timo Rautiainen , Manfred Stohl , Daniel Elena , Mikko Hirvonen , Jarmo Lehtinen , Henning Solberg , Cato Menkerud , Ilka Minor , Xavier Pons , Matthew Wilson , Michael Orr , Chris Atkinson , Gigi Galli
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport