Citroen’s Kris Meeke took control of Rally Argentina as his Volkswagen-mounted rivals fell by the wayside on the opening day.
Meeke leads the rally by 1m08.4s, ahead of teammate Mads Ostberg, after the first day of punishing gravel stages. All three of VW’s challengers hit trouble.
Overnight leader Sebastien Ogier was the first to falter, being forced out on the opening stage of the day with an engine problem that caused him to stop 5km before the finish. The two-time world champion will rejoin tomorrow under Rally2 regulations, but has no chance of claiming his first win in Argentina.
Then his teammate Andreas Mikkelsen suffered a puncture when he spun in SS3, and as he tried to drag his damaged car through the stage – being hit by Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville in the process – his suspension damper also cried enough, shooting through his bonnet to force him out.
Jari Matti Latvala, in the third VW, got within 15.3s of the rally lead after SS3, as Meeke suffered a puncture. But Meeke beat him on the following test, and then Latvala hit transmission woes on the final proper stage.
Latvala was forced to cruise through the superspecial, as Meeke monstered it and beat him by over 33s in their head-to-head run.
The current order
Meeke’s teammate Ostberg runs second, despite encountering engine problems this morning. The delayed Latvala is third, 15s behind Ostberg.
Like VW, Hyundai suffered a challenging day. Dani Sordo is running fourth, despite losing his power steering for two stages. He set the fastest time in the day-closing superspecial.
M-Sport lost one Fiesta when Ott Tanak broke his suspension in a watersplash, but Elfyn Evans survived the day intact to run fifth, just 5.5s behind Sordo.
Hyundai's Neuville lost time with a puncture, and caught fire after the superspecial in Merlo, and so is way back in seventh. Hayden Paddon suffered a litany of problems, including a terminal exhaust issue that forced his Hyundai to retire.