Leg Amendments: The original schedule for Leg two was amended by rally organisers following a 1 hour 51 minute delay caused by spectator congestion in the morning. Leg two was shortened to prevent stages being run in the dark, while Leg three...
The original schedule for Leg two was amended by rally organisers following a 1 hour 51 minute delay caused by spectator congestion in the morning. Leg two was shortened to prevent stages being run in the dark, while Leg three was increased to include two additional tests.
555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg put in a good performance at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza WRC2003, moving from eighth to sixth overall and into a provisional points winning position. His team-mate Tommi Makinen made up six places, and holds overnight thirteenth.
0850hrs Capilla del Monte - San Marcos Sierra 1 (23.02km)
Fastest time: n/a
Despite spectator access having been stopped at 0600hrs, the first scheduled run through Capilla del Monet was cancelled by organisers who felt there were too many people on the stage for it to be safe. In unusual circumstances, the decision was made after the first three cars on the road (Hirvonen, Makinen and Gardemeister) had started the stage. They completed the section at rally speed although their times were ultimately discounted. The remaining competitors drove slowly through an alternative route to the next test, the start of which was delayed by thirty minutes.
0953hrs San Marcos Sierra - Charbonier 1 (9.61km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 6:33.7
(Loeb, Rovanpera, Burns, Martin, Sainz, Warmbold, Raies)
Once again the rally became a victim of it's own popularity, and thousands of Argentinean spectators crowded the short 9.61km stage - many having camped out overnight. The crowds were so large that after the eighth car, the Peugeot of Marcus Gronholm, had passed through at competitive speed organisers stopped the stage for safety reasons. Crews drove directly to SS16 and the remaining WRC competitors were later awarded Gronholm's fastest time.
1205hrs San Marcos Sierra - Cuchi Corral 1 (22.57km)
Fastest time: Sainz (Citroen) 13:13.6
The current event leader Carlos Sainz was quickest through the first competitive stage to extend his lead over Markko Martin by a further 4.6 seconds. Gronholm was second fastest and Burns third. Starting 1 hour and 51 minutes behind schedule, the technical, twisty stage took competitors west of the Sierra Chica mountain range, to territory on which some of Argentina's most famous racing drivers, such as Juan Manuel Fangio, made their name. The test's two large water splashes, including the spectacular Rio Pinto crossing, caused no problems, but Gardemeister got off to a difficult start when his car suffered a drive-shaft problem, which cost him more than a minute. Gronholm seized overall fifth from Loeb, who later complained that running only one stage had caused him to lose pace.
1349hrs Cosquin - Villa Allende (19.19km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugoet) 13:17.0
Regarded by some as the most spectacular stage of the event, this was the test that Francois Delecour rolled on at the first corner two years ago. Starting with a 6km uphill section, followed by a descent towards Villa Allende, the route concluded with a flat out section with bridge crossings at the end. Gronholm was fastest to take his seventh win of the event, snatch overall fourth and relegate team-mate Rovanpera to fifth. Martin was second fastest and Loeb third. The Frenchman's sprint moved him just 1.6 seconds behind Rovanpera at the finish, well poised to strike for a top five position in the day's remaining stages.
1459hrs Carlos Paz -- Cabalango (14.81km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 10:08.3
On a charge to make up yesterday's lost time, Gronholm blasted through the sandy 14.81km test to take another stage win and reduce the overall gap between himself and Burns in third to 8.7 seconds. Sainz was second fastest, 0.1 seconds slower, with Loeb third. Competing in Argentina for the first time, the Frenchman's string of top three finishes elevated him back up to fifth overall. Subaru star Petter Solberg was fifth fastest, while team-mate Tommi Makinen was seventh. At the finish crews moved directly to the start of SS19.
1527hrs Tanti -- Cosquin (9.50km)
Fastest time: Sainz (Citroen) 5:52.1
As the tension mounted in the penultimate test of the day, less than a second separated the top three finishers. 2002 Argentine event winner, Carlos Sainz, took the win, with Gronholm 0.2 seconds behind and Burns a further 0.3 seconds back. Despite Gronholm's push, in the overall standings the gap between team-mates Burns and Gronholm, in third and fourth, remained consistent, decreasing by just 0.3 seconds. The most uneven stage of the event, the narrow test proved no problem for Petter Solberg, who put in another good performance to finish sixth, ahead of Rovanpera who was hampered by stiff steering. There was no change to the overall top ten. After SS19, crews returned to service at Le Cumbre.
1713hrs Capilla del Monte - San Marcos Sierra 2 (20.02km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugoet) 17:06.5
In a dramatic turn of events in the Leg's closing stages, Carlos Sainz lost the lead of the rally when he incurred a one-minute time penalty for booking out of a re-group one minute early. The mistake cost the Spaniard his 32.3 second lead, and dropped him to third overall. In a cruel twist of fate for the Citroen team, it's young gun Sebastien Loeb then crashed out of the event 11km in to SS20. Both Loeb and his co-driver Elena were unhurt, but were unable to continue. They had been in fifth overall. A stage win by Gronholm catapulted him 11.4 seconds ahead of Burns. Markko Martin was third fastest to end the day as the surprise overnight leader. He will start tomorrow's final leg 15.2 seconds ahead of Gronholm, who ended the day in second. Carlos Sainz was a further 8.1 seconds behind in third.
David Lapworth , 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal:
"Petter and Tommi have both done a good job today. It's difficult when we're playing a waiting game, rather than going for the win on the event as we had planned. But we've been able to try a few set up variations, which has given us some useful feedback ahead of Greece. It's not over yet though -- there's a good chance of a few points in the bag for Petter, and still the chance of some drama up ahead."
"Overall I've had a very, very good day. We made some adjustments and some improvements to the set up of the new dampers and we'll continue to do this tomorrow. We've moved up to sixth place today which is encouraging, but realistically we have to wait for something to happen up ahead. I think the organisers made the right decision to move the stages to tomorrow morning and I'm looking forward to them."
"It's been a difficult day. I tried to do my best, despite not being able to fight for the lead as I had hoped. But, on a positive note, I've managed to try a couple of things on the car ahead of Greece, which I hope will be a better event for me."
News from Pirelli
, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager:
"Today, both Petter and Tommi continued to use the PZero KM narrow gravel tyre. Petter chose the softer KM6 for the first two groups of stages, changing to the harder KM4 for the last group. Tommi used the KM6 for first group and then the harder KM4 for the remaining two groups. Both drivers have been pleased with their Pirelli tyres."
Technical Talk -- Argentina Service Logistics
While the competition of Rally Argentina began on Thursday night, team preparations to ensure everything was in place at Le Cumbre service area began way before as Dave Rudlin of the 555 SWRT logistics team explained:
"Compared to the European WRC events, Rally Argentina does give us a bit of a logistical challenge. The amount of equipment required, combined with the distances involved and the fact that much of the kit is needed on every rally, means that we have to get it in and out of the country as quickly and economically as possible.
"Most of the equipment we're using was transported by sea on the WRC boat used by many of the teams. In total we brought nine vehicles over on the boat including our main workshop, recce support truck, kitchen, tyre truck and a car transporter loaded with smaller team vehicles and the recce cars.
We loaded the boat at Savona in Northern Italy on the same weekend as Rally New Zealand, and 18 days later it arrived at the Delta dockyard about 100kms North of Buenos Aires.
"The two rally cars and 2.5 tonnes of additional spares were air-freighted directly from the UK and these were transferred into our trucks at the dockyard, together with 6 tonnes of equipment flown directly from the last rally in New Zealand. Rally organisers arranged an armed escort for our trucks, and we drove in a convoy to the team workshop in Cordoba, which took about 10 hours. On Tuesday we transferred to Le Cumbre and assembled our team service base.
"As soon as the rally has finished on Sunday we'll pack up the trucks, ready to leave Carlos Paz at 0600hrs Monday morning. The boat leaves the Delta dockyard on Tuesday morning and sails directly to the next event in Greece."
Following a change to tomorrow's final leg schedule, competitors will now take on two additional stages, SS20 at 0830hrs and SS22 at 0908hrs, before moving south and east of Le Cumbre, to the highest point of the rally, to contest the Leg's original three stages and final 59.90 competitive kilometres. These will be run at the new times of 1032hrs, 1100hrs and 1150hrs respectively. The winning car will cross finish ramp in the host town of Carlos Paz at 1439rs.