Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) claimed his sixth successive victory to equal the record for the most wins in a season set by fellow countryman Didier Auriol in 1992. However, Auriol's victories were not consecutive. Loeb eased through the final day to...
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) claimed his sixth successive victory to equal the record for the most wins in a season set by fellow countryman Didier Auriol in 1992. However, Auriol's victories were not consecutive. Loeb eased through the final day to win by 26.1sec from Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) with Petter Solberg (Subaru) completing the podium. Behind Gardemeister and Rovanperä (Mitsubishi), Markko Märtin (Peugeot) completed the top six while François Duval (Citroen) marked his return to the series with seventh. Ninth for Chris Atkinson (Subaru) was enough to earn his team the final manufacturers' point.
Sixty-one of the original 72 starters began the final Leg of Rally Argentina this morning.
Leg three included 64 competitive kilometres, run as five timed special stages. The route took crews into the mountains to the west of the host town, Carlos Paz.
Clear blue skies and slightly damp stages after rain on the previous two days. On the stages, temperatures ranged between -2ºC in the morning and 11ºC in the afternoon.
Sébastien Loeb and Citroën have smashed rallying's top world records with their dominant performance in the Argentinean round of the World Rally Championship at the weekend (15-17 July 2005) giving them the record for the most consecutive wins in a season - six - and, adding their win in the Monte Carlo season-opener, the most wins in one season. Loeb's team mate, François Duval finished 7th overall to earn two valuable, extra Manufacturers' points for the team. The performances of Manfred Stohl and Xavi Pons - who finished as the best placed privateers with their Team Kronos Racing Xsaras, both inside the top-ten in 8th and 10th places - were further reasons for a big fiesta in the Citroën camp tonight, even if Duval had hoped to be closer to Loeb.
Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "It wasn't easy," said Seb between autographs at the finish. "You only have to look at the gaps to see that. I can tell you, I pushed very hard right up to two stages from home. That forced me into a couple of mistakes, notably my spin in yesterday's loop to the south. Once again though, I was able to count on the Xsara's impeccable reliability and the team didn't put a foot wrong - again. Also, the 'eight' compound Michelin BTO tyre lived every bit up to our expectations. This may be our seventh win of the year, but it only strengthens our resolve to win more. We want to do even better."
Francois Duval/Sven Smeets: "I reached the finish of this difficult rally in a position which I can't say fully satisfies me," commented François Duval. "But I finished and that's the most important thing. It was a phase I had to go through in order to build up my confidence again. That's done now and I'm pleased to see that Sven and I worked well together."
Petter Solberg achieved a podium result on today's final Leg of Rally Argentina. The Norwegian was fastest on two of the day's five stages, and brought his Subaru Impreza WRC2005 over the finish ramp in third place to collect six Championship points and maintain his second place in the 2005 WRC series. On his Rally Argentina debut, Chris Atkinson enjoyed another trouble-free run in his Impreza and finished ninth overall, to earn a Championship point in the Manufacturers' contest.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: Today we made a couple of changes and they seemed to work well. While it's a good result, it was the couple of problems we had that made the difference. Overall I'm happy, it's been a hard weekend and the team did a very good job. I'll be fighting for the win in Finland and, as since it is so close to Norway, a lot of fans will be watching. It will be a tough fight, but I'm looking forward to it and I've every confidence that we'll come back again - no problem!
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: The pace all weekend has been good and I'm pleased that, since there have been so few retirements, I can set good times against the top guys while still driving comfortably. You need experience in Argentina to go fast, so the weekend has been all about getting confidence. I've had no problems with the car all weekend and the tyre choices have been pretty good. I'm now going to Finland understanding the car a lot more and, since I've done that event before, I'm hopeful of building upon what we learnt here.
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen finished fourth on the Rally Argentina today after winning a tremendous final day duel with Harri Rovanperä. The Finns' Ford Focus RS World Rally Car edged out their fellow countryman by 5.6 seconds after their battle, which raged from the very first kilometre of this ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, climaxed on the icy mountain tracks of central Argentina this morning. Gardemeister extended his consistent run which has seen his Castrol-branded Focus RS finish in the points on all nine rounds this season. He is one of only two drivers to achieve this feat and now lies fourth in the points standings. Ford remains third in the manufacturers' series. BP-Ford team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Mo^Þný finished 11th in their similar Focus RS on their Argentine debut. Privately-entered drivers Antony Warmbold and Michael Orr and Luis Perez Companc and Jose Maria Volta finished 12th and 14th respectively, ensuring that all four Focus RS cars completed the tough four-day event, which comprised 340.82km of competition.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "It was a difficult day, in fact it was a very difficult rally," said Gardemeister. "The roads this morning were icy but I had no choice other than to drive flat out to try to keep Harri behind me. The road surface changed from dry to wet to icy and it's hard to drive in constantly changing conditions. I set fastest time in the longest stage but we had a few lucky escapes in there. "The weekend has been good, although I would have liked to be on the podium. If conditions had remained as dry as they were during the recce period then I think that would have been possible. But fourth is a good, solid result and that's my ninth consecutive points finish with the Focus RS this season which is good, reliable form," he added.
Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny: Kresta started the final day in 10th in his Focus RS but the icy conditions caught out the 29-year-old Czech. "I went off the road once and slid wide twice in the Giulio Cèsare stage and lost more than 20 seconds," he said. "The stage was very difficult and as slippery as hell." With no opportunity to regain the lost time, Kresta took no risks through the final stages to finish 11th. "My feeling with the car wasn't perfect today. Some of my stages times this weekend were good and others weren't. The car has performed well but I'm not happy with my result, although maybe for my first time here it's not so bad," added Kresta.
After a brilliant second leg of the Rally Argentina, where Marcus Gronholm seized the runner-up spot after a brave fight, he decided not to attempt mission impossible by winning the event. Instead he finished an excellent second, with his team mate Markko Martin sixth. The 11 constructors points they have earned means that Peugeot is still well within reach of Citroen at the head of the manufacturers championship.
Marcus Gronhölm/Timo Rautiainen: This has been a good rally for us and second place is always a satisfactory result, but I think that I should have been closer to Sebastien Loeb. The car was very good over the fast and wide stages, but not so good over the slow and bumpy sections, where we still have a lot of work to do. Our tyre choice was exactly right for most of the time, and I think we did the best job that we could under the circumstances."
Markko Martin/Michael Park: "We still struggled to find confidence over the whole three days of this rally, and eventually decided that it was better to not take any risks and try for a solid points finish, rather than pushing too hard and going off. The conditions were sometimes extremely rough, but I felt happy with my tyre choices and I learnt a lot about the set-up in slippery conditions."
Armin Schwarz brought the ^Êkoda Fabia WRC 05 home in 16th place to record his first ever finish on the Rally of Argentina. His overall result was affected when he lost more than 10 minutes with a broken strut mount on the opening day but on today^Òs classic stages of El Condor and Giulio Cesare he recorded top 10 times before securing his place on two final superspecials at the Complejo Pro Racing centre in front of thousands of enthusiastic Argentine fans.
Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: The first stage today was very difficult because it was quite icy. You couldn^Òt see the ice because the spectators walking into the stage had covered it with sand and so you never knew when the grip was going to suddenly disappear. The second two stages were really good and I had a lot of confidence in the car. Without our problems on the first day I^Òm sure we could have got a decent result and some points here but I am happy to finally have finished a rally that has never been kind to me.
Jani Paasonen/Jani Vainikka: Retired
Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports claimed more points on the Rally of Argentina, the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen battled to the end and finished in a fighting fifth position in the Lancer WRC05, claiming points for themselves and the team. "Gigi" Galli and Guido D^ÒAmore set a blistering pace early this morning but were forced into retirement with gearbox problems after stage 19.
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: It^Òs been good to be fighting with top teams and the car has been so good all weekend", said Rovanperä. "Friday was good for us but we lost too much time on Saturday morning when the set-up wasn^Òt right for the conditions. Yesterday afternoon it all came together very well though and the feeling returned and today has obviously been good too, fighting with Toni all the way to the finish. I think we probably lost the fight in the second stage, where there was ice and mud and we had very little grip. If the conditions had been drier throughout, it could have been a different story".
Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: "It^Òs obviously a shame not to reach the finish, but the important thing is that we drove each of the different stages", said Galli. "Generally I have to be very happy because the stages we drove without problems we set good times, especially for only our second time here. The car is very much improved but the next step will come in Finland; then there will be more performance".