Hyundai poised for points on eventful day in Argentina Hyundai World Rally Team crew Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer confidently defended their overnight position of ninth amid a truncated day of confusion on leg two of Rally Argentina and a ...
Hyundai poised for points on eventful day in Argentina
Hyundai World Rally Team crew Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer confidently defended their overnight position of ninth amid a truncated day of confusion on leg two of Rally Argentina and a solid drive handed the pair a well-deserved eighth position overall by the end of the leg.
The day was scheduled to feature a group of three stages, to be repeated later in the day, with another group of three stages in between. Special stage 14, the leg's opening stage, was cancelled for safety reasons due to an excess number of spectators, and stage 15 was stopped after only eight cars had run it competitively for the same reason. The day continued from SS16 but the final two stages were not run and leg three will start with an additional two stages before the scheduled SS23.
The problems at the start of the day delayed the leg by almost two hours so the revised schedule avoided the need to run stages in the dark. Many crews suggested it would not have been safe to run in the dark due to the amount of dust hanging in the air, so shortening the day was favoured by most.
Hyundai's German crew drove solidly throughout leg two, stepping up their pace to ensure Czech rivals Skoda remained firmly in their dust. Armin's stage times were competitive enough to increase his lead to 27 seconds ahead of his French rival Auriol, and Gardemeister now lies 37 seconds adrift of his team-mate - over a minute behind Armin's Accent WRC".
Despite a commendable drive for best part of the day, a mistake and a subsequent spin on the Capilla del Monte cost Armin a few seconds. He explained: "About 10km into the last stage we were going strongly and we went wide at a hairpin and had to wait and wait before I could put the power on. But before I could, it snapped into a spin and ended up across the road between two banks. Then I had to manoeuvre backwards and forwards to get out. But it wasn't a big handicap because I know we can push hard tomorrow."
The stages throughout leg two were very different in character to those on leg one. The rally's early stages were sandy and deeply rutted but the second day was littered with rocks making it much rougher, hindering the progress of many competitors.
Even though the stage cancellations were due to huge crowds, Armin commented that he didn't think they were causing any problem: "I know I haven't been here many times before but this year, as far as I can see, the crowds are on their best behaviour and we had no problems with spectators on either of the stages this morning."
Concentrating on the battle with the Skodas, Armin added: "Before the spin our time was well up on the Didier (Auriol) and Toni (Gardemeister) and now we have to focus on a longer day than was planned. There is still a lot to go for in front us so there is still a chance we may pick up an even better finish."
News from our rivals
Leg two was a bad day for Citroën. Sebastien Loeb, the youngest member of the French team, crashed out on the final stage of the day while lying in fifth place. But perhaps the hardest event for the team to stomach was Carlos Sainz, who has contested this rally no less than twelve times, checking out of regroup early after SS19 and a one-minute penalty threw away his lead in favour of third position, handing first place to Ford's Markko Martin and permitting Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) to adopt second place. The rough stages affected other competitors - Francois Duval (Ford) and Gronholm both broke their windscreens in SS15; Toni Gardemeister (Skoda) broke a rear driveshaft in SS16 and Gronholm also suffered with damaged wheel alignment on the same stage.
The revised timetable for leg three now features a second run of SS20 Capilla del Monte, renamed SS20bis for leg three, followed by SS22bis San Marcos Sierra. SS21 has been scrapped completely. SS23, SS24 and SS25 will take place but each will run nine minutes later than originally scheduled. Surviving crews reach the Carlos Paz podium finish at 14:39hrs.