RÃ¥dstrom and Ford on target for points in Argentina Ford Martini World Rally Team drivers Thomas RÃ¥dstrom and Fred Gallagher remain firmly on course for a points scoring finish following today's second leg of the Rally Argentina, round seven...
Rådstrom and Ford on target for points in Argentina
Ford Martini World Rally Team drivers Thomas Rådstrom and Fred Gallagher remain firmly on course for a points scoring finish following today's second leg of the Rally Argentina, round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship. The duo returned to the rally base in Cordoba in sixth position in their Ford Focus World Rally Car after another controlled performance on their first visit to South America's only round of the series.
The 33-year-old Swedish driver and his Scottish-based co-driver, who re-started this morning in sixth, were again models of consistency during today's seven special stages, covering 127km across vast, open plains. Huge crowds, swelled by the country's national holiday, again flocked to the region to watch the world's top stars in action over the gravel tracks.
"I'm very pleased with my performance today and my times compared well with the drivers ahead who have much greater experience of the Argentinian roads," said Rådstrom. "The stages were very different to those of yesterday. They had a hard-based clay surface and, apart from the odd patch of mud, it was almost like driving on asphalt rather than gravel.
"Tomorrow's leg covers some of the finest rally roads I've seen. They're just as I like them, fast and flowing, and I'm really looking forward to it. There was no fog when we practised them last week so we have good notes and we'll be charging hard," he said.
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson was impressed by the maturity displayed by the Scandinavian. "Considering Thomas has never been here before and had such a difficult recce, he's driven very well. Four of the drivers ahead of him have won the world championship 10 times between them and Richard Burns has competed here three times, so in that type of company I feel Thomas has driven remarkably well.
"Our aim for Thomas was always to achieve points and support Colin McRae. He's under no great pressure from behind and I see no reason why he can't consolidate or improve his position tomorrow," added Wilson.
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A tremendous three-way battle for the lead has kept everyone enthralled. Overnight leader Juha Kankkunen, Subaru team-mate Richard Burns and Didier Auriol have all led at some point, the 28-year-old Briton eventually pulling clear on the final few tests to end the day 14.8sec ahead of the Frenchman, who is 1.6sec in front of the Finn.
Burns received an additional 10 second penalty after a gearbox problem caused him to arrive late at today's first stage. Fearing the worst, he completed the first group of three tests without further trouble before mechanics had the opportunity to change the gearbox. Behind them Carlos Sainz (Toyota) and Tommi Makinen (Mitsubishi) maintained their overnight fourth and fifth positions, the Finn suffering a double puncture on the opening stage and the team changing the car's rear driveshaft at the first major service park. The only major retirement was that of Harri Rovanpera, whose daylong engine problems ended when his Seat stopped near the end of stage 14.
The final leg heads south of Cordoba to the region's Lake District, where the roads are fast and flowing. Three stages around Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, each run twice, make up 132km of action in a total route of 474km. The drivers leave Cordoba at 07.30 and return to the city's spectacular Olympic Stadium at 17.00 for the finish ceremony in front of thousands of fans - one of the highlights of the season.
Fred Gallagher: "Tomorrow's stages are completely different compared to the rest of the rally. I think the second time we tackle the three tests will be important for us because having completed them once, we will have gained good experience and we should set times even closer to the top three cars."
Leaderboard after Leg 2 1. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 3hr 03min 40.9sec 2. D Auriol/D Giraudet F Toyota Corolla 3hr 03min 55.7sec 3. J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Subaru Impreza 3hr 03min 57.3sec 4. C Sainz/L Moya E Toyota Corolla 3hr 04min 47.7sec 5. T Makinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lanc 3hr 05min 05.6sec 6. T Rådstrom/F Gallagher S Ford Focus 3hr 06min 43.9sec 7. P Liatti/C Cassina I Seat WRC 3hr 07min 20.4sec 8. F Loix/S Smeets B Mitsubishi Cari 3hr 08min 38.7sec 9. G Trelles/M Christie ROU Mitsubishi Lanc 3hr 18min 57.1sec 10 C Menzi/R Ortiz RA Subaru Impreza 3hr 19min 57.0sec