Rally Argentina: Leg two summary

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) continues to lead but Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) put up a strong fight against the Frenchman. Trailing Loeb by 44.6sec last night, the Finn was fastest on three of the opening four stages to reduce the deficit to 25.2sec.

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) continues to lead but Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) put up a strong fight against the Frenchman. Trailing Loeb by 44.6sec last night, the Finn was fastest on three of the opening four stages to reduce the deficit to 25.2sec. Loeb lost time with a spin on one of those tests but increased his pace this afternoon to score two fastest times and end with a 26.6sec lead. Petter Solberg (Subaru) could not hold off Grönholm. He was passed on stage 14 and on the following test he damaged a rear brake calliper. To stop the brake fluid leaking away, he sealed the brake pipe and completed the last two stages with brakes at the front only. Behind Gardemeister, Harri Rovanperä (Mitsubishi) felt uncomfortable with his car during the morning tests but recovered well in the afternoon while Markko Märtin (Peugeot) slipped behind the battling duo on the afternoon's rougher stages. There were no major retirements.

Sixty-eight of the original 72 starters began Leg two of Rally Argentina this morning. Leg two included 114 competitive kilometres, run as seven timed special stages. The route took crews into the countryside to the south and north of the host town, Carlos Paz. Grey skies and damp roads after overnight rain. Morning stages dried out quickly, those in the afternoon were damper and muddier. On the stages, temperatures ranged between 3 ºC in the morning and 10 ºC in the afternoon.


Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Citroen Xsara WRC have successfully maintained their lead at around the half-minute mark at the end of a day marked by heavy rain. Their closest rival is no longer Petter Solberg, however, since Marcus Grönholm took over second spot at the end of SS14. François Duval and Sven Smeets are as concentrated as ever and continue to figure in 7th place, just ahead of Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor in the first of the two privately-entered, Kronos Racing-run Xsaras. A small off on SS12 saw Xavi Pons and Carlos del Barrio drop outside of the top-ten.

Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "It's been a tough leg, and it's not over yet. We will have to carry on pushing hard tomorrow when the conditions will be much rockier. We will also be competing at altitude. It promises to be an interesting day."

Francois Duval/Sven Smeets: "In the last stage," says François Duval, "it was like driving on ice, but we came through it without a scratch. It's been a good day. I took it easy in the narrow, rough portions. Despite the pressure, my confidence is coming back bit by bit. And I'll need plenty of confidence for tomorrow's leg which is likely to be very delicate indeed."


At the end of today's second Leg of competition on Rally Argentina, Petter Solberg holds third place overall. For much of the day Solberg was part of a breakaway group of three drivers involved in a thrilling scrap for the lead, but his ability to fight was affected by a brake problem in the afternoon, and he was forced to drive more defensively on the last few stages. Making his Rally Argentina debut, Chris Atkinson racked up another trouble-free day in his Subaru, meeting all of his development objectives and trading times with far more experienced drivers. Chris finished the day with a flourish by setting the third-fastest time on the last stage.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: This just wasn't my afternoon. On the first stage a rear caliper started to leak the brake fluid, probably when a big rock punctured it, and I had absolutely zero brakes for six kilometres. I managed to make some fixes after the stage, but I only had two or three brakes for the next stages. It was a big bit of bad luck. The stage conditions were very tricky, being so muddy, and I was off the road a couple of times. I think Sebastien may be too far away to catch tomorrow, however I'm definitely not happy with third and up at El Condor anything could happen as those stages are very difficult.

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: On the whole today was pretty good. I made a few small set-up changes after the midday break and they were going in the right direction. There was so much water and mud on the road - I think everyone was off the road at various times as it was so slippery. I remember we were going backwards while flat out in first gear at one point! I'm pleased that we were able to set good times and get so close to the top of the timesheets, especially against some of the big names. Tomorrow, I'll keep doing what I'm doing and hope that it is enough to make up a place and get in the points.


BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen and team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Možný both held top 10 places after today's second leg of the Rally Argentina. Gardemeister consolidated fourth in his Ford Focus RS World Rally Car after another highly consistent performance, while Kresta climbed onto the leaderboard in 10th in a similar car on his first appearance on this rally.

Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "The morning stages were so sandy it was like driving on the beach," said Gardemeister. "The second pass through the first stage was better for me because I had the experience of the previous run to draw from, but there were some big ruts. It was quite muddy all day but the final stage was incredible. I slid off the road three times at hairpin bends. I tried to control the car with the handbrake but it was just so slippery that the car slid off. "I've done too much sliding this afternoon and lost too much time. The sun has come out this evening and I hope it stays that way tomorrow. I've enjoyed the fight with Harri and tomorrow I must maintain the same kind of pace to keep ahead of him," added Gardemeister.

Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny: "In the twisty sections in the mud there were many rocks," he said. "The roads were hard with water on the surface and it wasn't easy to follow other drivers' lines. I overshot one junction and stopped in two corners. I drove slowly - but it was still too fast! Generally, I had a good day and everything was much better than yesterday. The morning stages were great to drive and I cannot believe how many spectators were out there. Tomorrow's stages are difficult and I think it will be hard for me. I've heard that there could be snow in the mountains in the morning and that would not be nice."


Marcus Gronholm had promised last night not to give up on his quest to win Rally Argentina, despite a handicap of 45 seconds at the end of leg one. With four fastest stage times out of seven, Marcus was by far the quickest driver of leg two -- delivering on his promise. Not only did he pass the Subaru in front of him, but he also took 19 seconds from a supposedly 'untouchable' leader: Sebastien Loeb!

Marcus Gronhölm/Timo Rautiainen: "Today was much better than yesterday, mostly because the roads were much better suited to me and the 307 WRC. The stages in the morning were wider, faster, and less bumpy, and these are the conditions in which our car works best. I enjoyed this leg and we didn't have a single problem. I think it will be impossible for us to win the rally just by normal driving, but we have to stay as close as possible and keep the pressure on. Tomorrow's stages are sure to be very tricky for everybody."

Markko Martin/Michael Park: "Today has been fine, with no real problems. We've made a good tyre choice throughout the day although we slid off a couple of times this morning, which cost us a bit of time. I'm still not totally confident when driving the car on the limit, but we've managed to find a pace that means we can get to the end without taking risks. My plan is to keep going like this: maybe there is a chance of making up another place tomorrow."


After the second day of Rally Argentina Å koda Motorsport World Rally Team driver Armin Schwarz is holding 16th place in the Fabia WRC 05, his position largely determined by the 11 minutes he lost yesterday afternoon while having to drive four stages with a broken strut mounting.

Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: We had a good clean run today without any problems. Although the day started wet the sandy surface of the southernmost stages meant that the roads dried quite quickly and at times they were like those in Finland. We gained four places today but the time gaps are quite big now and so this is the best we can achieve unless others have problems. Nevertheless I felt much more confident with the car and I could push harder although this afternoon's stages were extremely muddy. The second last stage was good for us and we saw a bit more of the performance that the Fabia is capable of.

Jani Paasonen/Jani Vainikka: Retired


At the end of the second leg of Rally Argentina, the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen have consolidated their fifth position and are fighting hard for fourth after a string of top times this afternoon. Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore have also been on the pace but, following yesterday's problems, hold 21st position.

Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "We had a disappointing morning; I drove hard and the times were just not there, but at least I now understand what was wrong", said Harri. "After changing the set-up everything came right and we set some good times. All round the car is better and we had a very good afternoon. Anything is possible tomorrow; we'll continue to push and see what we can do".

Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: "The whole day has not been bad, other than the small problems with the stalling and spins", said Gigi this evening. "I had a feeling at shakedown there was something strange with the launch system so the team will obviously check this out, as it was not something we had a problem with yesterday after so few stages. The new rear suspension geometry has given better balance and I think really we have had one good leg. Because of our position, we also use the time to do some small tests and always we learn more about the stages, tires and set-up".


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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team